What is it about?

In this study we assessed changes in the brain that can lead to visual skills improvements following eye surgery in congenitally blind children and adolescents. We discovered that this improvement in visual functions is linked to the increase of integrity of structural connectivity between regions involved in high-order visual functions, such as face recognition. Moreover, we observed that the patient's amount of change in late visual pathways, specifically the posterior callosum forceps, predicted the amount of behavioral improvement. This is a new result that identifies the location of brain changes responsible for behavioral improvement. Finally, we observed that the eye surgery has a greater impact on visual functions and brain plasticity if received at younger age, but recovery was still possible even when the surgery is received later in adolescence.

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Why is it important?

Our results suggest that sufficient brain plasticity remains in adolescence and that this plasticity helps to partially overcome the abnormal visual development. This has worldwide implications, mainly in those countries where children have access to surgery later in life. What we showed is that eye surgery can induce visual restoration by means of brain plasticity even at later stages. This concept challenges the notion that visual development is limited to fixed periods in life by emphasizing that the brain remains capable of plasticity even in later stages of development.


This paper is the result of a collaboration with the Prakash Project, a remarkable humanitarian and scientific initiative focused on restoring sight to curably blind children from rural areas of India. Being a part of this collaboration has been a tremendous honor for me, as it gave me the opportunity to study a unique population that I would otherwise never have had access to.

Caterina Pedersini
New York University Abu Dhabi

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: White matter plasticity following cataract surgery in congenitally blind patients, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, May 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2207025120.
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