An inspiring story has emerged about an 80-year-old woman who experienced a remarkable recovery of her vision after receiving a placebo treatment for chronic back pain.
Lynley Hood is a very accomplished writer living in Dunedin, New Zealand. She lost her eyesight due to glaucoma more than a decade ago but she has unexpectedly regained her vision after being given a placebo treatment for chronic back pain.
Over 12 years ago, Hood noticed her vision becoming blurry while reading a book one night. Assuming it was due to fatigue, she decided to rest. To her dismay, the blurriness persisted the next morning.
Hood was informed that her condition was a relatively rare form of glaucoma and it was unlikely to improve. She gradually became legally blind, unable to engage in activities such as reading and writing.
In 2020, Hood experienced an unfortunate accident when she fell and fractured her pelvis, resulting in severe back pain. However, this misfortune led her to participate in a chronic pain treatment research project at the University of Otago. Initially, her goal was to find relief from her chronic pain, but the treatment involving electric stimulation yielded unexpected results.
The research project consisted of two groups, both undergoing electrical stimulation sessions. Participants in both groups wore a specialized helmet fitted with electrodes. While the group Hood was assigned to receive electrical stimulation directly to the brain, the placebo group received superficial stimulation only at the scalp level.
Unbeknownst to Hood, she was part of the placebo group. Remarkably, after four weeks of electrical stimulation, her significantly impaired eyesight improved to nearly 100 percent, leaving her ophthalmologist astounded.
“Surprisingly, her vision improved so much that her ophthalmologist said it was a miracle,” project co-leader Dr Divya Adhia told the Otago Daily Times. “Miracle is not a word we use very often in science, but it was — an accidental miracle. It wasn’t the intended outcome, but to see that my research has actually made an impact on people is really miraculous.”
After living with severely diminished eyesight for over a decade, Hood is now adapting to her revitalized life. Previously lacking central vision in her left eye and experiencing visual disturbances in her right eye, she can now see perfectly again, allowing her to resume writing.
“At first, I thought I was imagining it,” the award-winning author said. “They’ve got such flash equipment that they could trace every millisecond of the current — it went across my scalp and into my eyes. The equipment showed that the cells in my retina went, ‘hey guys, something’s happening’, and it sent a whole lot of messages down my optic nerve to the parts of my brain that makes pictures and words and colors out of electrical messages.”
The exact mechanism through which electrical stimulation restored Mrs. Hood’s eyesight remains unknown. Dr. Adhia and her team are determined to uncover the underlying factors and are designing a new study to investigate this phenomenon alongside chronic pain research.
Their aim is to not only understand how electrical stimulation benefited the 80-year-old author but also potentially help others facing similar situations.