People suffering from the uncommon ‘visual snow’ condition could benefit from practising mindfulness, a fascinating new study has shown.
Following the success of an earlier study, a team featuring Guy’s and St Thomas’ (GSTT) staff is inviting participants to take part in its next research stage.
‘Visual snow’ is a neurological condition that causes people to see flickering dots – as if they’re “looking through a snow globe”.
It currently has no effective treatment but early research shows mindfulness – sometimes described as ‘focussed awareness of the present moment’ – could help.
Aila Collins, 29, a customer success manager, found her symptoms began during a stressful time in her life.
She said: “Out of the blue, my vision went grainy, like television static and, over time, I also started seeing floaters, halos around lights, ghosting around objects, flashes, after-images and my vision was shaky.
“It was an absolutely awful experience. I was scared that I’d lose my vision.”
Fortunately, Sui Wong, a consultant neurologist and neuro-ophthalmologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and Moorfields Eye Hospital, was leading a study exploring the use of mindfulness as a treatment.
After taking part in the research, Alia said: “By the end of the two months I noticed some positive changes in the intensity of some of my symptoms.
“Dr Wong is an incredible woman who is absolutely dedicated to helping those impacted by visual snow.”
Now, in a new study, led by staff from GSTT and Moorfields, and funded by the Visual Snow Initiative, participants will once again use mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) to treat symptoms.
The aim is to see if this can re-train the brain of people with visual snow, estimated to affect 2 per cent of the population, to remove their static-type images.
Dr Wong said: “This research uses mindfulness training as a potential treatment for visual snow.
“Our feasibility study on functional MRI scans already showed it can improve visual snow symptoms, correlating with a change in the brain’s visual network – like a form of brain training to modify brain pathways.”
People with visual snow can apply to take part in the new research. They should have severe visual snow as diagnosed by an ophthalmologist, neurologist or neuro-ophthalmologist and have not previously undertaken mindfulness.
There is more information at www.MBCT-vision.co.uk.