How mental stress and vascular dysregulation affect vision loss and recovery: a holistic neuroscience perspective
Vision is the most important sense for humans. After damage to the retina, optic nerve, or brain, visual function deteriorates often leading to severe consequences in everyday life such as reduced mobility, difficulties with recognizing objects and faces, or with reading. Since low vision is considered irreversible and often progressive, patients experience continuous mental stress due to worries, anxiety, or fear of losing more vision and independence, with risks of depression and social isolation.
Vision loss due to ocular diseases such as glaucoma, optic neuropathy, macular degeneration, or diabetic retinopathy, are generally considered an exclusive disorder of the retina and/or optic nerve. But also the brain, through multiple indirect influences, has also a major impact on functional visual impairment. Such indirect influences include intracerebral pressure, eye movements, top-down modulation (attention, cognition), and emotionally triggered stress hormone release, affecting blood vessel dysregulation. Therefore, vision loss should be viewed as the result of multiple interactions within a “brain-eye-vascular triad”, and several “eye” diseases may also be considered as “brain diseases” in disguise.
While the brain is part of the problem, it is also part of the solution: we offer a holistic approach to restore low vision by improving visual fields which includes the combination of psychological counselling, meditation, blood flow improvements, and brain functional connectivity network neuromodulation with non-invasive brain current stimulation (see www.savir-center.com). Our research and clinical results support the idea of a causal role of stress in different ophthalmological diseases, and with a holistic and evidence-based treatment approach we are able to interrupt the vicious cycle between stress and vision loss and help patients regain some vision again.
Bernhard A. Sabel, PhD, Germany
Present position: Full-Professor of Medical Psychology, Medical Faculty, Otto-v.-Guericke University of Magdeburg, Germany (since 1992)
Main domain of research: Brain plasticity after eye and brain lesions with focus on visual system damage, vision restoration with behavioral training and non-invasive current stimulation, neuropsychology and neurophysiology of visual system damage, visual system functional imaging; quality of life research in low vision and prediction models of vision restoration; nanotechnology for neuroimaging and drug delivery.