All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Kristina Visscher

Advisory Committee Members

Frank Amthor

David Knight

Rajesh Kana

Jarred Younger

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2016

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Age-related macular degeneration is one of the most common causes of blindness in the industrialized world, and the advanced phase of the disease that causes significant vision impairment affects nearly 2 million individuals in the United States (Friedman et al., 2004). It is characterized by the degeneration and eventual death of retinal photoreceptors in the macula, which is the area of the retina that mediates central vision. The resulting loss of cells often leads to profound deficits in visual function. However, many individuals with age-related macular degeneration learn to use their spared peripheral vision for visual tasks such as reading, whereas those persons in normal macular health use the fovea for those tasks. It is unclear how the anatomy and function of structures beyond the retina may be altered following the loss of central vision. This dissertation aims to first refine our understanding of the anatomy of primary visual cortex in adults with healthy vision. The next aim was to investigate how this anatomy differs following central vision loss. Finally, we assessed how the functional connections change in primary visual cortex following central vision loss. This dissertation presents the three main findings: 1) Cortical thickness differs between centrally-responsive and peripherally-responsive portions of V1. 2) The peripherally responsive portion of V1 is thicker in patients with central vision loss. 3) The peripherally responsive portion of V1 has greater functional connectivity to attention and higher order visual processing regions compared to normally sighted controls.

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