Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Anna Geuzebroek (Donders series 398)

20 November 2019

Promotors & co-promotors:  prof. dr. A. van Opstal, prof. dr. A. van den Berg,

dr. K. Haak

Seeing beyond the blind field

Humans have the remarkable ability to make sense of the complexity that our visual environment offers. Using visual information, one is effortlessly able to recognize objects or faces of loved ones, read complex literature and appreciate paintings, or find the way home. We do not think twice about these everyday life activities ---until we lose them. This is the harsh reality people experience with post-chiasmatic or primary visual cortex (V1) damage, often resulting in visual field defects (VFDs). In the extreme cases, the patient could lose sight of half of their world, contralateral to the damage. As our everyday life is heavily dependent on accurate visual processing, the VFDs, not surprisingly, have a significant impact on patients' day-to-day activities, affecting reading, visual navigation, and visual identification. As the population ages, stroke incidence and thus patients with VFDs unfortunately will also increase ---as will the need for diagnostics and rehabilitation along with this.  As it is, clinics have unfortunately still limited resources to offer for patients with VFDs.
In this thesis I explore a new direction using naturalist, ecologically-valid stimuli and hope to discern hints for new directions in assessment and rehabilitation.  For this purpose, this thesis focuses on moving towards the utilization of ecological, naturalistic stimuli for patient assessment. Here, I performed a series of experiments that included everyday visual tasks, aiming to quantify patient clusters. I further explored the fundamental mechanisms of naturalistic vision, specifically scene processing, in healthy controls. The aim here was to find targets to improve assessment and rehabilitation.