DOI: 10.1161/str.55.suppl_1.tmp11 ISSN: 0039-2499

Abstract TMP11: Cerebral Visual Impairment in Pediatric Stroke Patients Assessed by Virtual Reality Testing

Emily Da Cruz, Diana Tambala, Anna Lynch, Claire Manley, Melissa Bambery, Daniel Kelly, Kenda Alhadid, Lotfi Merabet, Patricia Musolino
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Neurology (clinical)

Introduction: Pediatric stroke is one of the leading causes of disability in children, many of whom incur brain injury affecting critical visual anatomical networks. Dedicated ophthalmologic examinations that detect cerebral visual impairment (CVI) - the leading cause of congenital visual impairment in developed countries - are not standard of care and can delay diagnosis and interventions. There is limited CVI data in pediatric stroke patients, and in this work we present data defining visual processing deficits in pediatric stroke patients.

Hypothesis: We hypothesize that pediatric stroke patients will (1) demonstrate greater visual-spatial processing impairments than controls and (2) demonstrate increasing performance impairment as a function of increasing visual task demands.

Methods: Using a virtual reality (VR) based visual search task system, we characterized significant deficits in higher-order visual processing of pediatric stroke patients (n = 17) as compared to healthy controls (n = 13). Stroke patients suffered from a perinatal (n = 8) or pediatric (n = 9) stroke - confirmed with brain MRI - affecting various vascular territories of the anterior and posterior circulations. The task required searching for on-screen targets with increasing visual complexity. Metrics such as reaction time, gaze error, shifted ellipse area, success rate, and pursuit saccade ratio were analyzed using unpaired group-level t-tests and considered significant if p < 0.05.

Results: Stroke patients took longer to identify the target (p = 0.001), were less accurate in finding it (p = 0.007), and exhibited greater impairment in performance with an increasing number of distractors compared to healthy children. Groups had comparable task compliance, as indexed by an off-screen count metric.

Conclusion: This original work demonstrates that pediatric stroke patients, particularly those with strokes affecting the middle cerebral artery and posterior circulation vascular territories, exhibit impaired higher-order visual processing. This highlights the urgent need for standardized clinical testing to provide quantitative performance measures of cortical visual processing. This will allow timely detection and implementation of interventional therapies.

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