Adaptive changes in the adult visual system following visual deprivation

Seminar | March 18 | 11:10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. | 489 Minor Hall

 Dr. MiYoung Kwon, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Alabama at Birmingham

 Neuroscience Institute, Helen Wills

As our population ages, a growing number of people must adapt to normal and pathological aging processes. Thus, understanding how the adult human brain deals with degraded sensory input is increasingly important. In this talk, I will present behavioral and brain-imaging evidence suggesting that visual deprivation results in compensatory changes in the adult human visual system. Here I will explore three major aspects of visual deprivation: reduced image contrast, reduced field of view, and reduced spatial resolution. In the first study, I will discuss how the adult human brain adapts to prolonged exposure to contrast reduction. In the second study, I will address how the visual system adjusts to the loss of central vision that provides high acuity pattern vision. In the third study, I will address how the visual system achieves reliable pattern recognition when the sampling density of retinal neurons is severely limited. Together, the findings of these studies support the view that the human visual system continuously adapts and reorganizes to changes in sensory inputs. This remarkable tolerance and adaptability to degraded visual input appears to improve detectability and discriminability of a given input signal.