Binocular Rivalry Measured 2 Hours After Occlusion Therapy Predicts the Recovery Rate of the Amblyopic Eye in Anisometropic Children, Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci, 4 (57), 1537-1546.

PURPOSE. Recent studies on adults have shown that short-term monocular deprivation boosts the deprived eye signal in binocular rivalry, reflecting homeostatic plasticity. Here we investigate whether homeostatic plasticity is present also during occlusion therapy for moderate amblyopia. METHODS. Binocular rivalry and visual acuity (using Snellen charts for children) were measured in 10 children (mean age 6.2 ± 1 years) with moderate anisometropic amblyopia before the beginning of treatment and at four intervals during occlusion therapy (2 hours, 1, 2, and 5 months). Visual stimuli were orthogonal gratings presented dichoptically through ferromagnetic goggles and children reported verbally visual rivalrous perception. Bangerter filters were applied on the spectacle lens over the best eye for occlusion therapy. RESULTS. Two hours of occlusion therapy increased the nonamblyopic eye predominance over the amblyopic eye compared with pretreatment measurements, consistent with the results in adults. The boost of the nonamblyopic eye was still present after 1 month of treatment, steadily decreasing afterward to reach pretreatment levels after 2 months of continuous occlusion. Across subjects, the increase in nonamblyopic eye predominance observed after 2 hours of occlusion correlated (rho = -0.65, P = 0.04) with the visual acuity improvement of the amblyopic eye measured after 2 months of treatment. CONCLUSIONS. Homeostatic plasticity operates during occlusion therapy for moderate amblyopia and the increase in nonamblyopic eye dominance observed at the beginning of treatment correlates with the amblyopic eye recovery rate. These results suggest that binocular rivalry might be used to monitor visual cortical plasticity during occlusion therapy, although further investigations on larger clinical populations are needed to validate the predictive power of the technique.

Early Cross-modal Plasticity in Adults, J Cogn Neurosci, 3 (29), 520-529.

It is known that, after a prolonged period of visual deprivation, the adult visual cortex can be recruited for nonvisual processing, reflecting cross-modal plasticity. Here, we investigated whether cross-modal plasticity can occur at short timescales in the typical adult brain by comparing the interaction between vision and touch during binocular rivalry before and after a brief period of monocular deprivation, which strongly alters ocular balance favoring the deprived eye. While viewing dichoptically two gratings of orthogonal orientation, participants were asked to actively explore a haptic grating congruent in orientation to one of the two rivalrous stimuli. We repeated this procedure before and after 150 min of monocular deprivation. We first confirmed that haptic stimulation interacted with vision during rivalry promoting dominance of the congruent visuo-haptic stimulus and that monocular deprivation increased the deprived eye and decreased the nondeprived eye dominance. Interestingly, after deprivation, we found that the effect of touch did not change for the nondeprived eye, whereas it disappeared for the deprived eye, which was potentiated after deprivation. The absence of visuo-haptic interaction for the deprived eye lasted for over 1 hr and was not attributable to a masking induced by the stronger response of the deprived eye as confirmed by a control experiment. Taken together, our results demonstrate that the adult human visual cortex retains a high degree of cross-modal plasticity, which can occur even at very short timescales.

Visual BOLD Response in Late Blind Subjects with Argus II Retinal Prosthesis, PLoS Biol, 10 (14), e1002569.

Retinal prosthesis technologies require that the visual system downstream of the retinal circuitry be capable of transmitting and elaborating visual signals. We studied the capability of plastic remodeling in late blind subjects implanted with the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis with psychophysics and functional MRI (fMRI). After surgery, six out of seven retinitis pigmentosa (RP) blind subjects were able to detect high-contrast stimuli using the prosthetic implant. However, direction discrimination to contrast modulated stimuli remained at chance level in all of them. No subject showed any improvement of contrast sensitivity in either eye when not using the Argus II. Before the implant, the Blood Oxygenation Level Dependent (BOLD) activity in V1 and the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) was very weak or absent. Surprisingly, after prolonged use of Argus II, BOLD responses to visual input were enhanced. This is, to our knowledge, the first study tracking the neural changes of visual areas in patients after retinal implant, revealing a capacity to respond to restored visual input even after years of deprivation.

Visual Plasticity: Blindsight Bridges Anatomy and Function in the Visual System, Curr Biol, 2 (26), R70-73.

Some people who are blind due to damage to their primary visual cortex, V1, can discriminate stimuli presented within their blind visual field. This residual function has been recently linked to a pathway that bypasses V1, and connects the thalamic lateral geniculate nucleus directly with the extrastriate cortical area MT.

Adaptation to size affects saccades with long but not short latencies, J Vis, 7 (16), 2.

Maintained exposure to a specific stimulus property-such as size, color, or motion-induces perceptual adaptation aftereffects, usually in the opposite direction to that of the adaptor. Here we studied how adaptation to size affects perceived position and visually guided action (saccadic eye movements) to that position. Subjects saccaded to the border of a diamond-shaped object after adaptation to a smaller diamond shape. For saccades in the normal latency range, amplitudes decreased, consistent with saccading to a larger object. Short-latency saccades, however, tended to be affected less by the adaptation, suggesting that they were only partly triggered by a signal representing the illusory target position. We also tested size perception after adaptation, followed by a mask stimulus at the probe location after various delays. Similar size adaptation magnitudes were found for all probe-mask delays. In agreement with earlier studies, these results suggest that the duration of the saccade latency period determines the reference frame that codes the probe location.

Perceived visual time depends on motor preparation and direction of hand movements, Sci Rep, (6), 27947.

Perceived time undergoes distortions when we prepare and perform movements, showing compression and/or expansion for visual, tactile and auditory stimuli. However, the actual motor system contribution to these time distortions is far from clear. In this study we investigated visual time perception during preparation of isometric contractions and real movements of the hand in two different directions (right/left). Comparable modulations of visual event-timing are found in the isometric and in the movement condition, excluding explanations based on movement-induced sensory masking or attenuation. Most importantly, and surprisingly, visual time depends on the movement direction, being expanded for hand movements pointing away from the body and compressed in the other direction. Furthermore, the effect of movement direction is not constant, but rather undergoes non-monotonic modulations in the brief moments preceding movement initiation. Our findings indicate that time distortions are strongly linked to the motor system, and they may be unavoidable consequences of the mechanisms subserving sensory-motor integration.

Effects of adaptation on numerosity decoding in the human brain, Neuroimage, (143), 364-377.

Psychophysical studies have shown that numerosity is a sensory attribute susceptible to adaptation. Neuroimaging studies have reported that, at least for relatively low numbers, numerosity can be accurately discriminated in the intra-parietal sulcus. Here we developed a novel rapid adaptation paradigm where adapting and test stimuli are separated by pauses sufficient to dissociate their BOLD activity. We used multivariate pattern recognition to classify brain activity evoked by non-symbolic numbers over a wide range (20-80), both before and after psychophysical adaptation to the highest numerosity. Adaptation caused underestimation of all lower numerosities, and decreased slightly the average BOLD responses in V1 and IPS. Using support vector machine, we showed that the BOLD response of IPS, but not in V1, classified numerosity well, both when tested before and after adaptation. However, there was no transfer from training pre-adaptation responses to testing post-adaptation, and vice versa, indicating that adaptation changes the neuronal representation of the numerosity. Interestingly, decoding was more accurate after adaptation, and the amount of improvement correlated with the amount of perceptual underestimation of numerosity across subjects. These results suggest that numerosity adaptation acts directly on IPS, rather than indirectly via other low-level stimulus parameters analysis, and that adaptation improves the capacity to discriminate numerosity.