Background: Vision Restoration Therapy (VRT) aims to improve visual field function by systematically training regions of residual vision associated with the activity of suboptimal firing neurons within the occipital cortex. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been shown to modulate cortical excitability.
Objective: Assess the possible efficacy of tDCS combined with VRT.
Methods: The authors conducted a randomized, double-blind, demonstration-of-concept pilot study where participants were assigned to either VRT and tDCS or VRT and sham. The anode was placed over the occipital pole to target both affected and unaffected lobes. One hour training sessions were carried out 3 times per week for 3 months in a laboratory. Outcome measures included objective and subjective changes in visual field, recording of visual fixation performance, and vision-related activities of daily living (ADLs) and quality of life (QOL).
Results: Although 12 participants were enrolled, only 8 could be analyzed. The VRT and tDCS group demonstrated significantly greater expansion in visual field and improvement on ADLs compared with the VRT and sham group. Contrary to expectations, subjective perception of visual field change was greater in the VRT and sham group. QOL did not change for either group. The observed changes in visual field were unrelated to compensatory eye movements, as shown with fixation monitoring.
Conclusions: The combination of occipital cortical tDCS with visual field rehabilitation appears to enhance visual functional outcomes compared with visual rehabilitation alone. TDCS may enhance inherent mechanisms of plasticity associated with training.