Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute to Illuminate Adaptive Strategies in Vision Impairment at IMRF Symposium

IMRF 2024 logo saying International Multisensory Research Forum 2024, Reno, NV

group photograph of SKERI attendees of IMRF

Reno, NV – June 3, 2024 – The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute played a key role at this year's International Multisensory Research Forum (IMRF) in Reno, Nevada, beginning June 17, 2024. An all-SKERI symposium "Shifting Sensory Reliance: Adaptive Strategies in Vision Impairment and Blindness," organized by Drs Catherine Agathos and Haydée Garcia-Lazaro (both postdoctoral fellows at SKERI), delved into the many ways individuals with partial or total vision loss compensate for deficits in visual processing and perception.

This symposium addressed a spectrum of visual impairments, from loss of stereopsis and central visual field loss to complete blindness, with a special focus on age-related changes. As older adults often exhibit deficits in multisensory integration while increasingly relying on multimodal information for accurate perception, these insights are particularly significant.

Speakers from Smith-Kettlewell highlighted how individuals leverage spared vision, cross-modal plasticity, and perceptual learning to enhance their functional abilities. Key presentations included:

This collection of studies underscores the brain's remarkable adaptability and its ability to creatively employ various compensation techniques following vision loss. The techniques range from leveraging spared vision and sensory substitution to enhancing perception via alternative modalities such as hearing and touch, and honing perceptual expertise through extensive training.

The symposium culminated in a panel discussion with all speakers, providing an opportunity for deeper engagement and exploration of these adaptive strategies. These insights have profound implications for developing customized interventions to enhance functional abilities and quality of life for individuals with varying degrees of visual impairment.

Additional presentations included a talk by Christian Sinnott where he discussed how "Noise exposure and noise-induced hearing loss predicts visual dependence in the rod-and-frame task" and two poster presentations:

Anca Velisar, Catherina Agathos, and Natela Shanidze in front of their poster at IMRF

Dr. Lora Likova, a Senior Scientist at SKERI, is a member of the IMRF 2024 Scientific Committee.