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Itzcovich, Elena; Riani, Massimo and Sannita, Walter G. (2017): Stochastic resonance improves vision in the severely impaired. In: Scientific Reports, Vol. 7, 12840 [PDF, 1MB]


We verified whether a stochastic resonance paradigm (SR), with random interference ("noise") added in optimal amounts, improves the detection of sub-threshold visual information by subjects with retinal disorder and impaired vision as it does in the normally sighted. Six levels of dynamic, zero-mean Gaussian noise were added to each pixel of images (13 contrast levels) in which alphabet characters were displayed against a uniform gray background. Images were presented with contrast below the subjective threshold to 14 visually impaired subjects (age: 22-53 yrs.). The fraction of recognized letters varied between 0 and 0.3 at baseline and increased in all subjects when noise was added in optimal amounts;peak recognition ranged between 0.2 and 0.8 at noise sigmas between 6 and 30 grey scale values (GSV) and decreased in all subjects at noise levels with sigma above 30 GSV. The results replicate in the visually impaired the facilitation of visual information processing with images presented in SR paradigms that has been documented in sighted subjects. The effect was obtained with low-level image manipulation and application appears readily possible: it would enhance the efficiency of today vision-improving aids and help in the development of the visual prostheses hopefully available in the future.

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