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Current Funded Research > Pennsylvania


Laura J. Balcer, MD

University of Pennsylvania

The School of Medicine

Philadelphia, PA

Region: Greater Delaware Valley Chapter

Award: Research Grant

Term/Amount: 10/1/03-9/30/08; $34,619

“Longitudinal assessment of visual function in multiple sclerosis Tracking changes in visual function and quality of life over time in people with MS, and identifying the best methods for vision testing in MS clinical trials.


Vision impairment and loss are common symptoms of multiple sclerosis. How vision changes over time in MS is not well understood, and its measurement during clinical trials of MS treatments has been limited. Laura J. Balcer, MD, and colleagues have preliminary findings suggesting that testing a person’s perception of gray letters on a white background (called contrast letter acuity and sensitivity) is a good way to identify visual impairment in MS. Scores for these tests are significantly lower in individuals with MS compared to controls without MS.


Now Dr. Balcer is attempting to determine if these tests can detect changes in vision over time. Her team is administering these tests to 200 people with MS who will be evaluated annually for 4 years. Dr. Balcer is analyzing changes that occur each year, and is examining the potential influence of disease-modifying therapies on visual function. Dr. Balcer also is comparing vision test scores to other measurements of neurologic impairment and quality of life, to determine if any relation exists between these aspects of MS.


This project may identify better methods for testing vision during MS clinical trials, as another means of determining whether a therapy is working, and should further our understanding of how visual function changes over time in people with MS.