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Health Systems Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
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Seed Grant Profile


2006-2007 Program

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Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Cortical Reorganization: Establishing Causal and Longitudinal Connections Between Pathology, Cortical Changes, and Functional Performance

This project addresses aspects of vision loss and brain function that accompany the leading cause of visual impairment and blindness in people 65 years of age and older: Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Studies employing both animals and humans provide evidence that the visual cortex is able to reorganize in response to retinal deafferentation. However, this cortical plasticity has yet to be shown in patients with AMD. This seed grant proposes the involvement of three cohorts of individuals, in progressed stages of AMD, plus age-matched controls. Using Nidek MP-1 instrumentation (to identify location and extent of scotoma as well as any preferred retinal locus (PRLs)), in tandem with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) (to acquire brain images of participants while viewing visual stimuli), participants will view an expanding annulus with a contrast reversing checkerboard pattern. The data acquired will enable the co-investigators to characterize the relationship between the disease's progression and cortical reorganization in the brain's primary visual cortex.

This seed grant will constitute the first step in a vein of both basic and applied research aimed at understanding how the visual cortex responds to the development of a scotoma, which will in turn yield insights into aiding individuals afflicted with AMD to adapt to their condition and improve the quality of their lives.

Investigators: Eric Schumacher (GT, Psychology), Susan A. Primo (Emory, Ophthalmology)

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