NEI NRSA Fellowship Award Issued to Dr. Natela Shanidze

Graph showing smooth pursuit gain modulation in subjects with AMD

Congratulations to Dr Natela Shanidze who was awarded a three-year fellowship from the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Shanidze's project is entitled, "Oculomotor Strategies in Central Field Loss", and it examines how macular degeneration effects motion perception and smooth pursuit eye movements. Her fellowship sponsors are Drs. Preeti Verghese and Steve Heinen.

Age-related macular degeneration is the most common cause of vision loss in the elderly, making it a major problem in the world today. Patients with central field loss have poor visual acuity and impaired eye movements, having difficulties with tasks such as reading and facial recognition. Smooth pursuit eye movements are essential for everyday tasks and are largely reliant on the central retina in humans. Many studies have examined fixation stability in individuals with central field loss and a few of these have even looked at saccadic eye movements responsible for target acquisition. To date, however, no study has systematically measured smooth pursuit in these individuals, despite its importance for tracking moving targets. The smooth pursuit system may be particularly affected because the patient’s central scotoma may occlude the target of interest and because the patients’ perception of this event may be altered as they are typically unaware of the size, location and even presence of their scotoma. To that end, we will examine the perception and pursuit of motion in patients with central field loss, as well as in healthy subjects with artificial scotomas that can be precisely controlled for size and location. Because the properties of the patients’ binocular vision are further complicated by the discrepant sizes and locations of the scotomas in the two eyes, we will conduct the smooth pursuit experiments during both binocular and monocular pursuit.