There have been those who have said that vision restoration is not possible and that there is no brain plasticity. But the evidence has become too overwhelming to be ignored. Not only have different laboratories come to similar conclusions that improving vision is possible, but there also are some very prominent supporters of the idea of visual system plasticity and vision restoration.
“My experiments on receptive field enlargement are hard evidence that it is possible to restore visual function through time,” says Torsten N. Wiesel, MD, the Swedish-born neurophysiologist who received the Nobel Prize in 1981 for his discovery of how vision is processed by the brain.
Wiesel told the Royal National Institute of Blind People, in London, some twenty- five years later in 2005, that his experiments offered hope that there is more to learn. He lectured:
“Restoration of vision is an issue I am very interested in and I think that there is progress; finding different means of restoring visual functions is very interesting and encouraging….My experiments on receptive field reorganization is hard evidence that it is possible to restore (visual) function through time. In this case, we did not make any special effort to stimulate the eyes; in the way that Bernhard Sabel has been doing in clinical cases trying to restore visual functions. And it could be that (by) using special means you could stimulate this area (of the brain with reorganized receptive fields) and that there is a chance you would get a quicker or better restoration of vision. For the clinical work it should be possible to have patients restore vision in spite of initially apparent lack of vision….So we can look upon (my own) experiments of receptive field….that plasticity (can) happen in the adult (brain) as shown in the experiments that Bernhard Sabel has been doing in the clinic. Maybe we shouldn´t be so surprised because there are experiments from other laboratories…showing that restoration of function, actually after a small cortical lesion, would occur surprisingly quickly.”
Today, neuroplasticity and brain stimulation with electric currents has become mainstreaming in neurological rehabilitation. But in ophthalmology it is just beginning to be studied and much progress has been made in recent years. There are plenty of good reasons to be optimistic: There is more light at the end of the tunnel.