New Brain Scan Study Discovers Possible Biological Basis of Visual Snow Syndrome

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Click here to read the full article by NIHR Maudsley BRC.

“Researchers from King’s College London have used a novel approach to show that the patterns of activity in two brain chemical systems – glutamate and serotonin – are different in people with visual snow syndrome compared to those without the condition.”

“Visual snow syndrome is characterised by a continuous visual disturbance in which people see static, flickering dots, and flashing lights – this happens when their eyes are both open and closed. It affects about 2 -3% of the world’s population and it can be debilitating, impacting vision, hearing, thinking, sensory processing, and quality of life.

Researchers found that in patients with VSS there were particular differences in the activity of glutamate and serotonin networks in specific areas of the brain. There was less synchronised activity (or functional connectivity) in the glutamate networks in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in those with VCC compared to healthy controls and those with migraine. The ACC is a hub for thinking and top-down control over sensory inputs and the different pattern of activity could represent an interruption in the filtering and integration of visual information. 

Analysis also showed that VSS patients had reduced functional connectivity in the serotonin networks of the visual cortex, insula, temporal pole and orbitofrontal areas of the brains compared to healthy controls. This reduced connectivity in serotonin networks was also seen in migraine patients with aura suggesting a biological link between VSS and aura. The findings suggest that serotonin activity in VSS patients may be influencing the integration of complex sensory information…”

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