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Fábio B. Daga, Eduardo Macagno, Cory Stevenson, Ahmed Elhosseiny, Alberto Diniz-Filho, Erwin R. Boer, Jürgen Schulze, Felipe A. Medeiros; Wayfinding and Glaucoma: A Virtual Reality Experiment. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2017;58(9):3343-3349. doi: 10.1167/iovs.17-21849.
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Wayfinding, the process of determining and following a route between an origin and a destination, is an integral part of everyday tasks. The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of glaucomatous visual field loss on wayfinding behavior using an immersive virtual reality (VR) environment.
This cross-sectional study included 31 glaucomatous patients and 20 healthy subjects without evidence of overall cognitive impairment. Wayfinding experiments were modeled after the Morris water maze navigation task and conducted in an immersive VR environment. Two rooms were built varying only in the complexity of the visual scene in order to promote allocentric-based (room A, with multiple visual cues) versus egocentric-based (room B, with single visual cue) spatial representations of the environment. Wayfinding tasks in each room consisted of revisiting previously visible targets that subsequently became invisible.
For room A, glaucoma patients spent on average 35.0 seconds to perform the wayfinding task, whereas healthy subjects spent an average of 24.4 seconds (P = 0.001). For room B, no statistically significant difference was seen on average time to complete the task (26.2 seconds versus 23.4 seconds, respectively; P = 0.514). For room A, each 1-dB worse binocular mean sensitivity was associated with 3.4% (P = 0.001) increase in time to complete the task.
Glaucoma patients performed significantly worse on allocentric-based wayfinding tasks conducted in a VR environment, suggesting visual field loss may affect the construction of spatial cognitive maps relevant to successful wayfinding. VR environments may represent a useful approach for assessing functional vision endpoints for clinical trials of emerging therapies in ophthalmology.
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