Peripheral Vision, Panic, & Alzheimer's
What you see "out of the corner of your eye" may set off an alarm that triggers panic. Scientists who discovered a specialized "vision zone" in the peripheral area say their finding offers hope for treatments for panic disorders, including agoraphobia (fear of open spaces), and even Alzheimer's.
Lead author Hsin-Hao Tu of Monash University in Australia and colleagues published their work in Current Biology. The team wrote that their results "suggest a specialized circuit through which stimuli in peripheral vision can bypass the elaborate hierarchy of [other] visual areas and rapidly elicit coordinated motor and cognitive responses across multiple brain systems."
Tu is quoted on Futurity.org as saying, “The brain is the most complex organ in the human body and perhaps the most remarkable. These findings change how we think of the brain in terms of how visual information is processed. This area is likely to be hyperactive in panic disorder, with agoraphobia. This knowledge could lead to treatment options for the hyperactivity, and therefore sensitivity to such disorders, particularly the fear of open spaces.
Tu went on to say that correlation with previous studies also shows that the peripheral vision zone is one of the first areas affected in Alzheimer’s disease. "This knowledge helps to explain spatial disorientation and the tendency to fall, which are among the earliest signs of a problem associated with Alzheimer’s,” Tu added.