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Functional and cortical adaptations to central vision loss



Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), affecting the retina, afflicts one out of ten people aged 80 years or older in the United States. AMD often results in vision loss to the central 15–20 deg of the visual field (i.e. central scotoma), and frequently afflicts both eyes. In most cases, when the central scotoma includes the fovea, patients will adopt an eccentric preferred retinal locus (PRL) for fixation. The onset of a central scotoma results in the absence of retinal inputs to corresponding regions of retinotopically mapped visual cortex. Animal studies have shown evidence for reorganization in adult mammals for such cortical areas following experimentally induced central scotomata. However, it is still unknown whether reorganization occurs in primary visual cortex (V1) of AMD patients. Nor is it known whether the adoption of a PRL corresponds to changes to the retinotopic mapping of V1. Two recent advances hold out the promise for addressing these issues and for contributing to the rehabilitation of AMD patients: improved methods for assessing visual function across the fields of AMD patients using the scanning laser ophthalmoscope, and the advent of brain-imaging methods for studying retinotopic mapping in humans. For the most part, specialists in these two areas come from different disciplines and communities, with few opportunities to interact. The purpose of this review is to summarize key findings on both the clinical and neuroscience issues related to questions about visual adaptation in AMD patients.


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Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Sing-Hang Cheung, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, 75 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA. E-mail:


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