Researcher funded by NERC is being undertaken at Newcastle University to investigate a new treatment method for Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS).

CBS is a condition that affects many people with sight loss and blindness and which causes them to experience often distressing and continuous visual hallucinations.

Researchers are still unclear about what causes CBS, but there is some initial consensus that the visual hallucinations might be linked to hyperactivity in a part of the brain known as the visual cortex. Through further research, we can learn more about the potential triggers in the brain, and hopefully find ways of switching them off.

Research is being undertaken by Dr John Paul Taylor, Senior Clinical Lecturer and Honorary Consultant and PhD Student Katrina da Silva Morgan, at Newcastle University (pictured right).

Currently, the only available therapy for this condition is medication but these are not always effective and can cause some severe side effects. Researchers at Newcastle University are investigating brain stimulation as a potential, non-pharmaceutical treatment option. Transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS) is a completely non-invasive method with significantly fewer side effects. Applied using small electrodes placed on the scalp, this stimulation can be used to target specific areas of the brain in order to modulate its activity, which may have an impact on visual hallucinations. This type of brain stimulation has never been used with CBS patients, therefore much testing is needed.

Early results have been encouraging, with some patients reporting paler and smaller visual hallucinations, as well as some possible improvements to vision due to reduction in size of the hallucinations. Building on its early findings, the Newcastle research team is currently conducting a double-blind trial to assess the effectiveness of this type of brain stimulation. In the trial, two patient groups undergo brain stimulation or its placebo counterpart over a period of two weeks.

Dr Amit Patel (pictured right, with his guide dog Kika) lives with CBS after suddenly going blind in 2013. He says:

My hope is that research will soon find a way of removing this distraught, wounded young woman from my life.

Read Amit's story here

In addition, the research is using brain imaging techniques to assess both changes in brain activity following stimulation, and differences between people with and without visual hallucinations in eye disease.

We are delighted to help co-fund this research project with the Macular Society as it could make a huge difference to hundreds of thousands of people living with Charles Bonnet syndrome

Please help us continue to fund research like this to help find new treatment methods for all eye diseases. 

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