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90 million older U.S. adults may be able dump reading glasses

TEL AVIV, Israel, March 18 (UPI) -- The 90 million older U.S. adults who have trouble reading books or the computer may be helped by training the brain to compensate, researchers say.

Uri Polat of the Eye Institute at Tel Aviv University in Israel and colleagues explained presbyopia causes vision to degrade with age, affecting virtually everyone more than 50 years of age. It has multiple negative effects on the quality of vision and the quality of life, due to limitations on daily activities such as reading, sewing or working on the computer.

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A pair of reading glasses are usually the treatment for presbyopia and laser surgery is also an option, but Polat and colleagues demonstrated perceptual learning -- repeated practice on a demanding visual task -- resulted in improved visual performance in presbyopes, enabling them to overcome and/or delay some of the disabilities imposed by the aging eye.

This improvement was achieved without changing the optical characteristics of the eye. The results suggested the aging brain retains enough plasticity to overcome the natural biological deterioration with age.

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Thirty study subjects -- mean age 51 -- and same-age and younger age control groups had their eyesight measured and reading performance assessed.

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Using a computer, the study subjects reacted to stimuli and different activities during 37 training sessions.

The study found training improved sensitivity and processing of the brain enough to compensate for the optically degraded visual input transmitted by the aging eye.

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Due to the limitations of the study and the lack of randomization, the researchers suggested a large randomized trial might be useful to confirm the benefits.

The findings were published in Scientific Reports.

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