Eye movement (oculomotor) rehabilitation
Disorders of convergence and divergence
A recent study noted that people with traumatic brain injury often have a constellation of eye movement (sometimes called oculomotor) deficits. The study noted that over 90% of patients with mild traumatic brain injury (sometimes abbreviated TBI and sometimes called acquired brain injury) were found to have one or more oculomotor dysfunctions.
The vision rehabilitation therapy that we provide in our office, sometimes called oculomotor rehabilitation or oculomotor training, is effective in providing significant improvement in eye motor disorders that result from traumatic brain injuries ranging from concussions, severe head injuries and strokes.
A study entitled "Effect of oculomotor rehabilitation on vergence responsivity in mild
traumatic brain injury", published in 2013 in the Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development examined a group of patients before and after they received oculomotor training and placebo therapy to determine whether there was improvement in their convergence and divergence ability. Convergence refers to the way the eyes move inward or converge when doing near work. Divergence refers to the ability of the eyes to move outward or diverge when focusing on objects that are moving away from the body.
The researchers found that convergence and divergence abilities improved significantly following oculomotor training, as did depth perception and visual attention. No improvement resulted from placebo therapy, suggesting that the the rehabilitation therapy was effective and that no improvement is expected in the absence of therapy.
The authors concluded that there was "overall improvement in nearly all of the critical, abnormal measures of vergence was observed both objectively and clinically. Improved vergence motor control was attributed to residual neural visual system plasticity and oculomotor learning effects in these individuals."
Disorder of accommodation
A 2014 study entitled "Effect of oculomotor rehabilitation on accommodative responsivity in mild traumatic brain injury" and also published in the Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development looked at the effect of vision therapy rehabilitation for a group of oculomotor dysfunctions known as "accommodation". Accommodation refers to the ability of the eyes, through a complex neurological process, to change optical power to maintain a clear image or focus on an object as its distance from the eyes varies.
The researchers looked at 12 patients with mild traumatic brain injury who had vision related symptoms and gave them a program of rehabilitative oculomotor training (lasting six weeks with two three hour sessions per week) as well as placebo therapy. The researchers found that the rehabilitation program produced significant improvement in the patients' accommodation abilities. No improvement was found following placebo therapy. The authors conclude that "[t]hese results provide evidence for a significant positive effect of the accommodatively based OMT on accommodative responsivity. Such improvement is suggestive of oculomotor learning, demonstrating considerable residual brain-visual system plasticity in the adult compromised brain."
Other studies on vision rehabilitation for eye movement disorders
A study published in the June 2014 issue of the journal Brain Injury entitled "Effect of Oculomotor Vision Rehabilitation on the Visual-Evoked Potential and Visual Attention in Mild Traumatic Brain Injury" found that oculomotor vision rehabilitation training was responsible for significant improvements in a number of vision function parameters in patients who had suffered a mild traumatic brain injury. Specifically, the study found significant improvement in the amplitude and latency of the visually evoked potential as well as improvements in Visual Search and Attention Test scores.
In a 2008 study by Ciuffreda et al. published in the journal Optometry, 90% of patients with traumatic brain injury who were treated with vision therapy had significant improvement in their eye movement disorders.
Optometric researchers have also published studies in the neurological literature such as a 2002 study by Kapoor and Ciuffreda in the journal Current Treatment Options in Neurology, where the authors stated that binocular vision problems such as problems of accommodation, vergence, version and other are amenable to optometric vision therapy:
Anomalies of accommodation, vergence, version, photosensitivity, and field of vision are amenable to noninvasive, rehabilitative interventions, such as vision therapy, which is rendered by optometrists and is described in this article. Further, vision therapy may be performed in isolation or in conjunction with the application of the following:
- Fusional prism spectacles (for diplopia)
- Tinted spectacles (for photosensitivity)
- Yoked prism spectacles (for visual-spatial hemispheric inattention,
with or without a manifest visual field defect), as appropriate
Studies on vision therapy rehabilitation following brain injury
Vision rehabilitation following a traumatic brain injury was been extensively studied.
Click here for over 110 references to scientific studies on visual dysfunction, brain injury and vision therapy rehabilitation.
Vision Related Literature on Acquired Brain Injury
Updated March 2013
Compiled by Lynn Fishman Hellerstein, OD, FCOVD, FAAO
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- Chokron, S., Perez, C., Obadia, M., Gaudry, I., Laloum, L., Gout, O., From blindsight to sight: cognitive rehabilitation of visual field defects, Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience 2008;26, 305.
- Ciuffreda KJ. The efficacy of and scientific basis for vision therapy in non-strabismic accommodative and convergence disorders. Optometry 2002;73:735-762.
- Ciuffreda KJ, Han Y, Kapoor, Ficarra AP. Oculomotor rehabilitation for reading in acquired brain injury. NeuroRehabilitation 2006;21(1):9-21.
- Ciuffreda KJ, Kapoor N, Han Y. Reading-related ocular motor deficits in traumatic brain injury. Brain Inj/Professional 2005;2:16-20.
- Ciuffreda KJ, Kapoor N, Rutner D, Suchoff IB, et al. Occurrence of oculomotor dysfunctions in acquired brain injury: A retrospective analysis. J Am Optom Assn 2007;78:155-161.
- Ciuffreda KJ, Ludlam, Kapoor N. Conceptual Model of Optometric Vision Care in Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. J Behav Optom 22;10-12.
- Ciuffreda KJ, Ludlam, Kapoor N. Clinical oculomotor training in traumatic brain injury. Optom Vis Dev 2009;40(1):16-23.
- Ciuffreda KJ, Rutner R, Kapoor N, Suchoff IB. Vision therapy for oculomotor dysfunctions in acquired brain injury. Optometry-J Am Optom Assn 2008;79:18-22.
- Ciuffreda KJ, Suchoff IB, Marrone MA, et al. Oculomotor rehabilitation in traumatic brain-injured patients. J Behav Optom 1996;7:31-8.
- Ciuffreda KJ, Suchoff IB, Kapoor N, et al. Normal vision function. In: Downey & Darling’s Physiological Basis of Rehabilitation Medicine, 3rd ed. Gonzalez EG, Myers SJ, Edelstein JE, et al., eds. Boston: Butterworth–Heinemann, 2001;241-61.
- Ciuffreda, K. J., and Tannen, B., Eye Movement Basics for the Clinician, Mosby, St. Louis, MO, 1995.
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- Falk, Naomi S. and Aksionoff, Elizabeth B. , The Primary Care Optometric Evaluation of theTraumatic Brain injury Patient J Am Optom Assoc 8/92;63(8),
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- Jackowski MM, Sturr JF, Taub HA, Turk MA. Photophobia in patients with traumatic brain injury: uses of light-filtering lenses to enhance contrast sensitivity and reading rate. Neuro-rehab 1996;6:193-202.
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To learn more about vision therapy and brain injuries, visit: www.braininjuries.org
Another excellent resource is the website of NORA, the Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association.
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