Stroke-induced occipital damage is an increasingly prevalent, debilitating cause of partial
blindness, which afflicts about 1% of the population over age 50. Over the last 10 years, new
methods for visual retraining have emerged, and they have been shown to locally recover a range
of visual abilities in previously cortically blind (CB) fields. Although exciting and life altering for
patients, effective training has been restricted to the laboratory under the supervision of a
technician as an eye tracker is used to target delivery of the stimulus at the edge of the blind field.
At home, where patients do most of their training (300-600 trials/day, 5-7 days/week for a
minimum of 3-6 months), and no eye tracker is involved, involuntary eye movements cause many
stimuli to fall outside of the intended area. As a result, training effectiveness is severely reduced.
The work proposed to be executed out at the Perform Lab at the Rochester Institute of Technology
leverages recent advances in eye tracking and virtual reality technology for effective at-home
visual rehabilitation. Hardware and software development will be followed by replications of
published psychophysical experiments conducted with traditional desktop displays, and
quantitative comparisons will be used to assess the effectiveness of the novel apparatus. At the
same time, new paradigms will probe the potential of virtual reality as a means to study behavior
in more naturalistic contexts in which conclusions are drawn from experimental records of
movements of the hands or eyes to dynamically-changing, audio-visual stimuli, embedded within
a three-dimensional task environment.