SIGNIFICANCE This study explores whether eccentric viewing training (EVT) changes the properties of the retinal area used for fixation in subjects with bilateral macular disease. The data presented demonstrate the feasibility of conducting a randomized controlled trial on EVT. PURPOSE Patients with bilateral central scotomas adopt other retinal area(s) called preferred retinal locus to substitute the blind fovea. EVT is offered with the goal to improve functional vision by learning how to identify and use a more useful retinal area for fixation - a trained retinal locus - and/or to improve fixation stability with their existing preferred retinal locus. An observational study was conducted to determine whether patients change and adopt a new trained retinal locus location and/or if fixation stability improves after EVT. METHODS Seventy-six patients with bilateral central scotomas received EVT from an experienced rehabilitation therapist. Retinal locations for repeated fixations and sizes of central scotomas of the better eye were recorded before and after EVT with a scanning laser ophthalmoscope. The position and area of the 95% confidence bivariate ellipse that defines the retinal area in which 95% of fixations occur were analyzed. RESULTS We observed no significant difference between the size of the area of the fitted ellipses before (mean [SD], 26.4° [19.7°]) and after (mean [SD], 24.8° [20.9°]) EVT (P =.54). However, we observed a shift in the preferred retinal locus location after EVT (P <.0001). The mean (SD) shift in the position of the center of fixation after EVT was 7.5° (5.2°; range, 0.45 to 23°). This mean difference was larger than would be expected from average within-subject fixation stability. CONCLUSIONS The location of the retinal area used for fixation changes after EVT. Fixation stability does not change after EVT. These preliminary data are yet to be confirmed with the use of a control group.
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