Significance: Prior studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of vergence-accommodative therapy in the treatment of convergence insufficiency (CI). These results show the changes in brain activation following therapy through the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate changes in brain activation following office-based vergence-accommodative therapy versus placebo therapy for CI using the blood oxygenation level-dependent signal from fMRI.
Methods: Adults (n = 7, aged 18 to 30 years) with symptomatic CI were randomized to 12 weeks of vergence-accommodative therapy (n = 4) or placebo therapy (n = 3). Vergence eye movements were performed during baseline and outcome fMRI scans.
Results: Before therapy, activation (z score ≥ 2.3) was observed in the occipital lobe and areas of the brain devoted to attention, with the largest areas of activation found in the occipital lobe. After vergence-accommodative therapy, activation in the occipital lobe decreased in spatial extent but increased in the level of activation in the posterior, inferior portion of the occipital lobe. A new area of activation appeared in the regions of the lingual gyrus, which was not seen after placebo therapy. A significant decrease in activation was also observed in areas of the brain devoted to attention after vergence-accommodative therapy and to a lesser extent after placebo therapy.
Conclusions: Observed activation pre-therapy consistent with top-down processing suggests that convergence requires conscious effort in symptomatic CI. Decreased activation in these areas after vergence-accommodative therapy was associated with improvements in clinical signs such as fusional vergence after vergence-accommodative therapy. The increase in blood oxygen level-dependent response in the occipital areas following vergence-accommodative therapy suggests that disparity processing for both depth and vergence may be enhanced following vergence-accommodative therapy.