Visual cortex transcranial direct current stimulation for proliferative diabetic retinopathy patients: A double-blinded randomized exploratory trial

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Brain Sciences


Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) is a severe complication of diabetes. PDR-related retinal hemorrhages often lead to severe vision loss. The main goals of management are to prevent visual impairment progression and improve residual vision. We explored the potential of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to enhance residual vision. tDCS applied to the primary visual cortex (V1) may improve visual input processing from PDR patients’ retinas. Eleven PDR patients received cathodal tDCS stimulation of V1 (1 mA for 10 min), and another eleven patients received sham stimulation (1 mA for 30 s). Visual acuity (logarithm of the minimum angle of resolution (LogMAR) scores) and number acuity (reaction times (RTs) and accuracy rates (ARs)) were measured before and immediately after stimulation. The LogMAR scores and the RTs of patients who received cathodal tDCS decreased significantly after stimulation. Cathodal tDCS has no significant effect on ARs. There were no significant changes in the LogMAR scores, RTs, and ARs of PDR patients who received sham stimulation. The results are compatible with our proposal that neuronal noise aggravates impaired visual function in PDR. The therapeutic effect indicates the potential of tDCS as a safe and effective vision rehabilitation tool for PDR patients.

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