Cortex; a journal devoted to the study of the nervous system and behavior

Disturbed temporal dynamics of brain synchronization in vision loss.

PMID 25956453


Damage along the visual pathway prevents bottom-up visual input from reaching further processing stages and consequently leads to loss of vision. But perception is not a simple bottom-up process - rather it emerges from activity of widespread cortical networks which coordinate visual processing in space and time. Here we set out to study how vision loss affects activity of brain visual networks and how networks' activity is related to perception. Specifically, we focused on studying temporal patterns of brain activity. To this end, resting-state eyes-closed EEG was recorded from partially blind patients suffering from chronic retina and/or optic-nerve damage (n = 19) and healthy controls (n = 13). Amplitude (power) of oscillatory activity and phase locking value (PLV) were used as measures of local and distant synchronization, respectively. Synchronization time series were created for the low- (7-9 Hz) and high-alpha band (11-13 Hz) and analyzed with three measures of temporal patterns: (i) length of synchronized-/desynchronized-periods, (ii) Higuchi Fractal Dimension (HFD), and (iii) Detrended Fluctuation Analysis (DFA). We revealed that patients exhibit less complex, more random and noise-like temporal dynamics of high-alpha band activity. More random temporal patterns were associated with worse performance in static (r = -.54, p = .017) and kinetic perimetry (r = .47, p = .041). We conclude that disturbed temporal patterns of neural synchronization in vision loss patients indicate disrupted communication within brain visual networks caused by prolonged deafferentation. We propose that because the state of brain networks is essential for normal perception, impaired brain synchronization in patients with vision loss might aggravate the functional consequences of reduced visual input.