Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Enhances Recovery of Stereopsis in Adults With Amblyopia

Abstract

Amblyopia is a neurodevelopmental disorder of vision caused by abnormal visual experience during early childhood that is often considered to be untreatable in adulthood. Recently, it has been shown that a novel dichoptic videogame-based treatment for amblyopia can improve visual function in adult patients, at least in part, by reducing inhibition of inputs from the amblyopic eye to the visual cortex. Non-invasive anodal transcranial direct current stimulation has been shown to reduce the activity of inhibitory cortical interneurons when applied to the primary motor or visual cortex. In this double-blind, sham-controlled cross-over study we tested the hypothesis that anodal transcranial direct current stimulation of the visual cortex would enhance the therapeutic effects of dichoptic videogame-based treatment. A homogeneous group of 16 young adults (mean age 22.1 ± 1.1 years) with amblyopia were studied to compare the effect of dichoptic treatment alone and dichoptic treatment combined with visual cortex direct current stimulation on measures of binocular (stereopsis) and monocular (visual acuity) visual function. The combined treatment led to greater improvements in stereoacuity than dichoptic treatment alone, indicating that direct current stimulation of the visual cortex boosts the efficacy of dichoptic videogame-based treatment. This intervention warrants further evaluation as a novel therapeutic approach for adults with amblyopia.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by a Faculty of Science Research Development Fund and Early Career Research Excellence Award, University of Auckland; an Auckland Medical Research Foundation Project Grant; and a Health Research Council Grant to BT; a National Natural Science Foundation of China Grant (81200715); a Thrasher Research Fund for Early Career Award to JL; and a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Grant (53346) to RFH. We thank Dr Long To and Dr Jeremy Cooperstock for their collaboration, and Dr Avinesh Pillai for valuable assistance with the statistical analysis.

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Correspondence to Minbin Yu or Benjamin Thompson.

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Daniel P. Spiegel and Jinrong Li contributed equally to this work.

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Spiegel, D.P., Li, J., Hess, R.F. et al. Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Enhances Recovery of Stereopsis in Adults With Amblyopia. Neurotherapeutics 10, 831–839 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-013-0200-y

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Keywords

  • Amblyopia
  • Plasticity
  • tDCS
  • Stereopsis
  • Inhibition