Author: Vanessa Mora
Role: Director of Research at VSI

Interview With:

Dr. Owen White
Monash University
Melbourne, Australia

In my recent conversation with Dr. Owen White, Director of the Ocular Motor Lab in the Department of Neurosciences at Monash University and the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, is currently conducting ongoing research by looking at the correlation of the neurophysiological abnormalities in Visual Snow Syndrome (VSS). He proposes that therapeutic responses can be monitored by having a significant measure of abnormalities while undertaking functional MRI, and new VSS treatment could be developed.

According to Dr. White, vision can be described as an offline perceptual construct, and Visual Snow Syndrome can be used to elucidate human cerebral function further. As he elaborates, he believes that VSS overlaps with many other conditions, including Persistent Precentral Postural Dizziness (PPPD), fibromyalgia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), chronic fatigue, and numerous other disorders previously considered purely psychological. Many patients Dr. White encounters suffer from facets of these disorders.

What are functional abnormalities?

“Currently, we have no measure of what is happening in the brain that produces VSS symptoms,” states Dr. White. The personal reports of each patient suffering from VSS are not currently quantitative but qualitative in the form of symptom descriptions. As such, this research aims to develop a process that can measure central dysfunction to recognize the functional abnormality in the brain causing VSS.

How does it work?

Functional brain imaging provides an idea of where these functional abnormalities are located but do not define function. As an example given by Dr. White: “One patient may have a frontal lobe abnormality, whereas another patient may have a parietal abnormality and they develop the same symptoms due to network dysfunction”. Similar symptoms will be presented if there is a malfunction anywhere in this network. Overall, we combine results from different research modalities, the summed data providing more clarity of functionality and dysfunctionality.

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