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NEI sets CVI as a research priority

Learn about the National Eye Institute's future plans for CVI research

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The National Eye Institute (NEI) at the National Institutes for Health (NIH) released their Strategic Plan: Vision for the Future and CVI has a clear presence. This is a big win for the CVI community. NEI/NIH is an important driver of innovative research (and funding for research) to better understand the eye and the visual system. So when CVI is set as a research priority for the first time ever, this is something to celebrate! 

CVI is front and center in the NEI Strategic Plan because of strong advocacy from the CVI community. NEI opened an online Request for Information (RFI) at the end of 2019 and the CVI community—medical professionals, educators and therapists, and families—came together to show our strong collective voice. As result, CVI was the single most mentioned issue (nearly two-thirds of the total 252 responses). 

NEI’s new mission statement is centered around driving innovative research, fostering collaboration, recruiting a talented and diverse workforce, and educating providers, scientists, policymakers, and the public. 

The condition [CVI] has historically been under recognized.

NEI Strategic Plan: Vision for the Future

What does NEI’s Strategic Plan say about CVI?

In the NEI Strategic Plan: Vision for the Future, you can find CVI in several places. The strategic plan has six areas of emphasis—CVI is discussed in Biology and Neuroscience of Vision, Data Science, and Quality of Life.

Pages 63-64: the report states the need to coordinate research on CVI that includes

  • bringing together scientific and stakeholder communities,
  • conducting research “to identify biomarkers to allow for more accurate diagnosis, risk prediction, and evaluation of treatment efficacy,”
  • creating an “evidence-based age appropriate test battery and CVI classification system,”
  • understanding “the neural basis of CVI,”
  • exploring “neuroplasticity-based therapies,”
  • researching and disseminating “effective clinician awareness strategies to increase timely recognition and diagnosis of CVI.”

Page 96: CVI is used as an example for the plan to “develop registries to track and better understand diseases, conditions, and interventions.”

Pages 100-101: the report highlights how current CVI research “unlocks complexities of brain-based visual impairment and neuroplasticity.” 

Pages 103-105: the report discusses the research gaps in the Quality of Life area. CVI has a strong presence with the emphasis on research to explore individualized rehabilitation strategies, comorbidities and integrated care management, and connecting neuroscience to vision rehabilitation research. Some specifics include:

  • “Develop and evaluate evidence-based practices for rehabilitation of ocular- and brain-based visual impairments based on standardized outcome measures.”
  • “Enhance the ability to diagnose brain-based visual impairments quickly and accurately, assess the range of abilities present, and design strategies tailored to a given individual.”
  • “Study the application of advanced imaging techniques to examine the causes of brain-based visual impairment and how neural connections can be modulated to affect function.”

[W]hile vision research has focused on diagnosis and treatment of ocular causes of vision loss, the field is in the early stages of understanding brain-based vision loss from conditions such as CVI, TBI, or stroke. Different rehabilitation strategies are needed for brain-based, compared with ocular, causes of vision loss.

NEI Strategic Plan: Vision for the Future

Pages 108-109: you’ll find a two-page callout all about CVI that covers the causes of CVI, impacts on visual function, clinical and public health impact, and diagnosis, management, and rehabilitation. The report clearly states that CVI is the leading cause of visual impairment in children and that “more research is needed to accurately diagnose and optimally treat those affected.”

Pages 133-134: shows the results of the Request for Information and states that “two-thirds of the total comments focused on cerebral (cortical) visual impairment (CVI), which is now a leading cause of childhood blindness in the U.S.” 

Check out the entire NEI Strategic Plan: Vision for the Future (2021-2025).

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