Visual contrast sensitivity deficits in 'normal' visual field of patients with homonymous visual field defects due to stroke: A pilot study

Philip L. Clatworthy, Elizabeth A. Warburton, David J. Tolhurst, Jean Claude Baron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Homonymous visual field defects (VFD) are common following stroke, and often recover, partially or fully, by unknown mechanisms. In clinical practice, visual field recovered on perimetry is often considered perceptually normal. However, studies have shown contrast sensitivity (CS) deficits in patients with stroke and homonymous VFD. This study investigated the origin of visual CS loss in patients with VFD due to stroke. We hypothesised that CS deficits would be found in visual field areas appearing normal on perimetry, in patients with ischaemic stroke affecting the retrochiasmal visual system, and that the spatiotemporal properties of this CS loss would be consistent with those of 'blindsight', perhaps suggesting similar underlying mechanisms. Methods: CS measurements were made in 20 healthy participants, and in 7 patients with stroke causing homonymous VFD sparing foveal vision, measured using Humphrey static perimetry (SITA-Fast 24-2 procedure). Importantly, patients with concomitant visuospatial neglect were excluded. CS measurements were made using a modification of the method of increasing contrast, corrected for reaction time. Three spatial stimuli were used, at several spatial frequencies: (1) large sinusoidal gratings; (2) foveal Gabor patches; and (3) Gabor patches presenting in the putatively recovered visual field, near VFD. Stimuli with different temporal profiles were used to selectively stimulate transient and sustained visual channels, to provide insight into mechanisms of visual loss and/or recovery. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used in the analysis of the measurements, allowing for correction for age and stimulus eccentricity. Results: ANOVA for sustained grating stimuli showed orientation-selective (horizontal) CS loss (p = 0.025); no such loss was apparent in the central visual field (foveal Gabor stimuli). Localised CS close to VFD was reduced in stroke-affected hemifields compared with unaffected hemifields (p ≤ 0.005), though these areas appeared normal on perimetry. In these areas, CS was relatively preserved for transient compared with sustained stimuli (Wilcoxon signed rank tests). Conclusions: The finding of specific CS deficits in the normal-appearing visual field of patients with homonymous VFD due to stroke suggests that static perimetry provides an inadequate assessment of visual function in these patients, with clear implications for testing of vision in clinical practice. The results are consistent with relative sparing of the transient/magnocellular visual channel. These findings demand further investigation. If confirmed in larger, longitudinal studies, this will have important implications for the mechanisms of recovery, and may provide a target for visual rehabilitation - for example, using repeated detection practice ('perceptual learning').

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-335
Number of pages7
JournalCerebrovascular Diseases
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013


  • Contrast sensitivity
  • Hemianopia
  • Hemianopsia
  • Perimetry
  • Psychophysics
  • Stroke
  • Visual channels
  • Visual contrast sensitivity
  • Visual field defects


Dive into the research topics of 'Visual contrast sensitivity deficits in 'normal' visual field of patients with homonymous visual field defects due to stroke: A pilot study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this