Brain Plasticity and Visual Repair: Can Vision be Improved?

Many parents of slightly older children with vision problems and adults who’ve been living with similar issues often wonder if it’s too late for visual repair after a certain age. Even though the critical period of visual development is early on in life, they’re usually happy to learn that vision can be improved because the human brain retains a degree of plasticity for many years into adulthood. Neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity, is the brain’s ability to change throughout an individual’s life and reorganize itself by forming new connections between neurons. This plasticity of the brain is what makes visual repair possible throughout childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

Due to a younger brain’s ability to function with more plasticity, visual repair and therapy treatments are more successful in childhood and adolescence and can have lifelong effects. However, many studies have confirmed that brain plasticity in adulthood is still present at a high enough degree to allow the success of many vision therapy treatments for adult patients too.

Vision Therapy Success in Children

In children, many vision problems are mistaken for learning disabilities, and symptoms can display themselves as difficulty reading and writing or focusing on schoolwork – issues that are sometimes then misdiagnosed as Dyslexia or ADD and ADHD. This error in diagnosis can be caused by the application of standard eyesight tests, which are not always a proper indication of vision problems.

Nonetheless, once the true cause is established and the proper treatment applied, vision can be improved with vision therapy, which has a very high success rate in children and adolescents. This is due to the brain’s ability to readjust and make the connections it would have made in early child development—proven by numerous case studies that report drastic improvements in a child’s reading, writing, and overall academic performance previously hindered by improper vision.

When vision issues are diagnosed properly, vision therapy significantly improves your child’s academic struggles, allowing them to focus with newfound ease and produce successful academic results. Who thought a proper vision test could yield such life changing results?

Insufficient Vision Does Not Mean Insufficient Eyesight

A child or adult patient can have 20/20 eyesight but suffer from eye focusing (accommodation) problems or eye teaming (vergence) disorders such as convergence insufficiency. A person experiencing vision problems isn’t experiencing a problem with the optic nerve, but how the brain communicates with the parts of your body that produce visual images.

Vision therapy essentially retrains the brain to communicate properly by developing and strengthening the neurological connections between brain processing and the body parts that help us see and focus properly. We highlight this in hopes of raising awareness about a common misconception that can result in improper treatment and cause more problems down the road.

Vision Therapy Success in Adults

If you’re an adult looking for solutions and treatments to help with vision problems, vision therapy is an option. Vision disabilities, such as eye tracking deficienciesAmblyopia (lazy eye), and strabismus (eye turns), still have a good chance of repair in fully developed brains due to the brain’s amazing ability to relearn proper communication with the body – visual plasticity at its best.

Many medical professionals test and observe the plasticity of adult brains and see improvements in adult visual function through stimulation, visual adaptation and deprivation treatments, and perceptive learning. Although it’s true that the best time to seek therapy is in childhood, with hard work and consistency, there is a very real hope that vision can be improved throughout adulthood.

For more information on visual plasticity and repair, please visit our archive of research, or feel free to schedule a consultation to discuss your options with one of our board-certified doctors.

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