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Moral Decisions Can Be Influenced By Eye Tracking PDF
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Ophthalmology and Optometry
Monday, 23 March 2015

Eye TrackingOur opinions are affected by what our eyes are focusing on in the same instant we make moral decisions. Researchers at Lund University and other institutions have managed to influence people's responses to questions such as "is murder defensible?" by tracking their eye movements. When the participants had looked at a randomly pre-selected response long enough, they were asked for an immediate answer. Fifty-eight per cent chose that answer as their moral position.

The study shows that our moral decisions can be influenced by what we are looking at when we make the decision. Using a new experimental method, the researchers tracked participants' eye movements and demanded an answer when their eye rested on a randomly pre-selected answer.

The researchers, from the Division of Cognitive Science at Lund University, University College London (UCL) and the University of California, Merced, studied in real time how people deliberate with themselves in difficult moral dilemmas. The participants had no idea that the researchers were carefully monitoring how their gaze moved in order to demand an answer at the right moment. The results showed that the responses were systematically influenced by what the eye saw at the moment an answer was demanded.

"In this study we have seen that timing has a strong influence on the moral choices we make. The processes that lead to a moral decision are reflected in our gaze. However, what our eyes rest on when a decision is taken also affects our choice", explained Philip Pärnamets, cognitive scientist at Lund University and one of the authors of the study.

The study is the first to demonstrate a connection between gaze and moral choices, but it is based on previous studies which have shown that for simpler choices, such as choosing between two dishes on a menu, our eye movements say what we will eat for dinner before we have really decided.

"What is new is that we have demonstrated that if eye movements are tracked moment by moment, it is possible to track the person's decision-making process and steer it in a pre-determined direction", said Petter Johansson, a reader in cognitive science at Lund University.

The thought process needed to reach a moral position is thus interlinked with the process of viewing the world.

"Today, all sorts of sensors are built into mobile phones, and they can even track your eye movements", said Daniel Richardson, director of the Eye Think Lab at UCL. "By documenting small changes in our behaviour, our mobiles could help us reach a decision in a way that has not been possible before."

New Pathways Discovered to Prevent Blindness PDF
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Ophthalmology and Optometry
Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Scientists have made a major new discovery detailing how areas of the brain responsible for vision could potentially adapt to injury or trauma and ultimately prevent blindness.

The Monash University led study, published in Current Biology, sheds new light on the relationship between vision loss and brain plasticity - the extraordinary ability of the brain to modify its own structure and function as a result of change or damage.

Focusing on the visual system, the study details how visual information can be rerouted in the brain to bypass damaged areas.

Vision is the most complex sense, with over 50 per cent of the large outer layer of the brain, known as the cortex, devoted to it. It was thought that one specific pathway from the eye to the brain was responsible for conscious vision, and in the absence of this pathway an individual was rendered blind. However, the research led by Associate Professor James Bourne from the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) at Monash University, reveals the importance of a second pathway, through an area of the brain called the pulvinar.

Researchers discovered the pulvinar plays not only an important role in brain development but also following an injury to the primary pathway, especially in the first year of life.

Previous studies demonstrated that children who receive an injury to the primary pathway often retain normal visual capacity, whereas an adult with an identical lesion is left blind. Researchers say developing a greater understanding of the mechanisms for rerouting visual information and the potential of brain plasticity provides great possibilities for regenerative medicine, especially brain injuries caused by stroke and trauma.

Associate Professor Bourne said the study provides vital new information on how the visual system is wired together in the brain following an injury.

“Decades of research have focused on one pathway in the brain thought to be responsible for conscious vision. We knew the brain has the capacity to re-wire itself following injury or trauma but the idea that there is a second pathway providing visual information to the brain is a relatively new phenomenon,” Associate Professor Bourne said.

“Our research proves a second pathway exists but significantly it also shows the brain is much more plastic than originally believed.”

The research team established novel techniques that haven’t been used in combination before, to profile the specific changes over a period of time. This included novel MRI techniques, which made it possible to map connections and see how they shrunk or grew after an injury. This also allowed the research team to zoom in to the cellular level and identify special characteristics of these cells including how it is possible for them to be able to transmit visual information.

Monash PhD student, Ms Claire Warner, who also took part in the study, said identifying the existence of this second pathway was the foundation for future research in this field.

“The next step is to undertake more work to better understand the complex circuitry of the visual brain and how pathways are established in early life and removed at a later stage,” Ms Warner said.

“We’re a long way off but this opens up a whole new line of inquiry to see if we can develop regenerative techniques to restore vision loss."

Scientists Develop Telescopic Contact Lenses PDF
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Ophthalmology and Optometry
Thursday, 05 March 2015

Telescopic Contact LensLast month researchers unveiled a new prototype of telescopic contact lens giving hope for better, stronger vision. They also showed  complementary smart glasses that recognize winks and ignore blinks, allowing wearers of the contact lenses to switch between normal and magnified vision.

"We think these lenses hold a lot of promise for low vision and age-related macular degeneration (AMD)," says Tremblay, a researcher in the team. "It's very important and hard to strike a balance between function and the social costs of wearing any kind of bulky visual device. There is a strong need for something more integrated, and a contact lens is an attractive direction. At this point this is still research, but we are hopeful it will eventually become a real option for people with AMD."

The first iteration of the telescopic contact lens--which magnifies 2.8 times--was announced in 2013. Since then the scientists behind the project have been fine-tuning the lens membranes and developing accessories to make the eyewear smarter and more comfortable for longer periods of time, and thus more usable in every day life.

The contacts work by incorporating a very thin reflective telescope inside a 1.55mm thick lens. Small mirrors within bounce light around, expanding the perceived size of objects and magnifying the view, so it's like looking through low magnification binoculars.

At this time, the telescopic contacts are made using a rigid lens known as a scleral lens--larger in diameter than the typical soft contacts you might be used to and valuable for special cases, such as for people with irregularly shaped corneas. Although large and rigid, scleral lenses are safe and comfortable for special applications, and present an attractive platform for technologies such as optics, sensors, and electronics like the ones in the telescopic contact lens, says Tremblay.

The final lenses are made from several precision cut and carefully assembled pieces of plastics, aluminum mirrors, and polarizing thin films, along with biologically safe glues.

Since the eye needs a steady supply of oxygen, the scientific team has spent the last couple of years making the lenses more breathable--a critical requirement. To achieve oxygen permeability, they are incorporating tiny air channels roughly 0.1mm wide within the lens to allow oxygen to flow around and underneath the complex and normally impermeable optical structures to get to the cornea.

Image quality and oxygen permeability in the lenses are ongoing challenges and objects of research, but results are improving as the mechanical and manufacturing processes are refined and better understood, say the scientists.

The researchers have also developed a novel method to electronically switch the wearer's view between normal, or unmagnified vision and telescopic. This switching functionality is crucial for the lenses to be widely useful for non-AMD sufferers who will be able to have magnification "on demand". In the system electronic glasses use a small light source and light detector to recognize winks and ignore blinks. The wearer will wink their right eye for magnification, and left eye for normal vision.

The glasses work by electronically selecting a polarization of light to reach the contact lens. The contact lens allows one type of polarization in the 1x aperture and another in the 2.8x aperture. Thus, the user sees the view where the polarization of the glasses and contact lens aperture match.

There are glasses already on the market for people with AMD that have mounted telescopes, but they tend to look bulky and interfere with social interaction. They also do not track eye movement, so you have to position your eyes and tilt your head to use them.

The combination of the telescopic contact lenses and optional blink-controlled eyewear represent a huge leap in functionality and usability in vision aid devices and a major feat for optics research.

Ortho-K Custom-made CLs Slow Progress of Myopia in Children PDF
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Ophthalmology and Optometry
Friday, 27 February 2015

myopia childrenA technique called orthokeratology ("Ortho-K"), using custom-made contact lenses to shape the growing eye, has a significant effect in slowing the progression of myopia (nearsightedness) in children, according to a research review in the March issue of Optometry and Vision Science, official journal of the American Academy of Optometry.

Led by Xing-Rong Wang, MD, of the Affiliated Eye Hospital of Shangdong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Jinan, China, the researchers analyzed pooled data from previous studies of Ortho-K. They concluded that orthokeratology does certainly slow myopia progression and retard the axial length growth of the eye. Dr Wang and colleagues analyzed seven previous studies of orthokeratology to treat myopia (nearsightedness) in children. Myopia is one of the most common eye disorders worldwide, with a reported prevalence of 20 to 50 percent in the United States and Europe, and 70 percent or higher in East Asia. Of the seven studies, five were performed in East Asia.

Ortho-K is a relatively new treatment approach, in which the child wears customized contact lenses overnight. Over time, the Ortho-K lenses act to guide eye growth--similar to the use of a dental "retainer" to straighten the teeth. Previous studies have reported encouraging results with Ortho-K in slowing myopia progression.

The seven studies included data on 435 children with mild to moderate myopia, aged six to 16 years. All studies assessed axial length, or the length of the eye from front to back. This is a key measure of eye growth, specifically of interest related to myopia development. The researchers used a method called meta-analysis to pool the study results from the publications they reviewed.

As expected, with or without orthokeratology, axial length increased as the children grew. However, after two years, the increase in axial length was significantly slower in children treated with Ortho-K. The average (weighted mean) difference between groups was about one-fourth of a millimeter. That small but significant change was consistent with the reported effects of Ortho-K in slowing myopia progression. An alternative measure of eye growth (vitreous chamber depth) showed a similar difference between groups.

For reasons that are not yet entirely clear, childhood myopia has increased to epidemic proportions in recent years, especially in Asia. Myopia persists into adulthood and, in the more severe cases, is a risk factor for eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal detachments.

Eye and vision researchers have been working on new optical treatment approaches to slow myopia progression. Ortho-K is one promising approach; others include contact lens designs that modify the focus on the peripheral retina.

The new review and meta-analysis supports the effectiveness of Ortho-K in producing at least some reduction in the rate of progressive myopia. The questions remain as to the mechanism by which Ortho-K works to control myopic eye growth. Dr Wang and coauthors emphasize the need for additional studies to address this issue, as well as large-scale randomized trials to assess its long-term benefits.

Optic Nerve May Help Predict Stroke PDF
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Ophthalmology and Optometry
Friday, 13 February 2015

Using optic ultrasound to measure the sheath of a nerve that connects the eye and brain can help identify acute stroke patients most at risk of dying within days or months, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2015.

The new study aimed to quickly and noninvasively identify stroke patients who are at risk from increased pressure inside the skull – which is thought to reflect stroke severity and is the major cause of death. Measuring the thickness of the optic nerve sheath may be a simple test for increased intracranial pressure, said Vishnumurthy S. Hedna, M.D., lead researcher and assistant professor of neurology at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville, Fla.

The study involved 86 patients at the University of Florida's Shands Hospital who were suspected of having a buildup of pressure in the skull after their stroke. Researchers used ocular ultrasound (ultrasound assessment of the eyes) to measure the sheath that encases the optic nerve.

For patients who later died of a stroke due to a blood vessel blockage, average diameter of the nerve sheath was 5.82 millimeters, versus 5.33 millimeters in those who survived. In patients with a bleeding stroke, average diameter was 6.23 millimeters for those who died, versus 5.72 for survivors.

For every millimeter bigger the nerve sheath diameter was, the risk of death within six months was four times as high in patients whose stroke was due to a blood vessel blockage, and six times as high in patients who had a bleeding stroke. Most of the deaths occurred within a month of patients' hospitalization. The study also suggested that the larger the nerve sheath measurement, the more disabled a patient was likely to be six months later.

"On Command" Shades Developed PDF
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Ophthalmology and Optometry
Monday, 09 February 2015

on command shadesImagine eyeglasses that can go quickly from clear to shaded and back again when you want them to, rather than passively in response to changes in light. Scientists report a major step toward that goal, which could benefit pilots, security guards and others who need such control, in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

In the study, led by Anna Österholm in John Reynolds' group at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the researchers point out that most transitional lenses now on the market don't meet many users' needs. When wearers are driving or wearing a baseball cap, for example, the lenses stay clear rather than switching to a darker shade even in broad daylight. Also, the majority of available versions don’t block out the harshest light, such as bright light reflected off snow. And the change from colored to clear can take several minutes, which has safety implications for certain users including airline pilots. Reynolds' team wanted to find a way to solve these issues.

The researchers designed a new kind of lens that can switch within seconds from clear to darkly shaded and back again in response to a small electrical charge that a wearer could control. They can also fine-tune the color of the lenses to match the full range of hues used in commercial sunglasses. To make the lenses, they say they used a method that could be easily scaled up for manufacturing.

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