MDC Lab Coats

Identification and treatment of the visual processing asymmetry in MS patients with optic neuritis: The Pulfrich phenomenon


  • M.J. Sobhanian
  • R. Agarwal
  • E. Meltzer
  • E. Kildebeck
  • B.S. Frohman
  • A.N. Frohman
  • S.L. Galetta
  • S. Saidha
  • O. White
  • P. Villoslada
  • F. Paul
  • A. Petzold
  • R.L. Rennaker
  • E.H. Martinez-Lapiscina
  • L.J. Balcer
  • R. Kardon
  • E.M. Frohman
  • T.C. Frohman


  • Journal of the Neurological Sciences


  • J Neurol Sci 387: 60-69


  • Background: The Pulfrich phenomenon (PF) is the illusory perception that an object moving linearly along a 2-D plane appears to instead follow an elliptical 3-D trajectory, a consequence of inter-eye asymmetry in the timing of visual object identification in the visual cortex; with optic neuritis as a common etiology. Objective: We have designed an objective method to identify the presence and magnitude of the PF, in conjunction with a cooresponding strategy by which to abolish the effect; with monocular application of neutral density filters to the less affected fellow eye, in patients with MS and a history of optic neuropathy (e.g. related to acute optic neuritis or subclinical optic neuropathy). Methods: Twenty-three MS patients with a history of acute unilateral or bilateral optic neuritis, and ten healthy control subjects (HC) were recruited to participate in a pilot study to assess our strategy. Subjects were asked to indicate whether a linearly moving pendulum ball followed a linear 2-D path versus an illusory 3-D elliptical object-motion trajectory, by reporting the ball's approximation to one of nine horizontally-oriented colored wires that were positioned parallel to one another and horizontal to the linear pendulum path. Perceived motion of the bob that moved along wires behind or in front (along the ‘Z' plane) of the middle reference wire indicated an illusory elliptical trajectory of ball motion consistent with the PF. Results: When the neutral density filter titration was applied to the fellow eye the severity of the PF decreased, eventually being fully abolished in all but one patient. The magnitude of neutral density filtering required correlated to the severity of the patient's initial PF magnitude (p < 0.001). Conclusions: We ascertained the magnitude of the visual illusion associated with the PF, and the corresponding magnitude of neutral density filtering necessary to abolish it.