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partners » projects » project prakash
Partner : Department of Neuro sciences and Artificial Intelligence, MIT, USA

Target :
Children with congenital cataracts till the age of 5 years

Area :
North India

Background : India is home to 25% of the entire blind population of the world. Many of India’s blind are children with congenital anomalies of the eye. While the incidence of congenital blindness in developed nations such as the United States of America and United Kingdom is less than 0.3 per 1000 children, the incidence in India is 0.81 per 1000.

More than a fifth of the blind children in India have treatable conditions, primarily congenital cataracts. The societal support and quality of life for blind children in India is extremely poor leading to a life expectancy that is 15 years shorter than that of a sighted child.

The Significance

The project will be significant from many perspectives, as given below:
  1. Addressing open issues in Neuroscience:
    One of the fundamental challenges in Neuroscience is - understanding how the human visual system learns to perceive environmental objects. Through a process of extensive and continuous exposure, the brain comes to be able to parse complex visual scenes as distinct objects. Several questions about this process remain unanswered.

    Project Prakash is well suited to provide possible answers to all these questions. A particular strength of this project is that it affords an opportunity to continuously follow the development of visual skills and associated neural markers before the sight restoration treatment to after.

  2. Development of effective rehabilitation strategies:
    The treated children will exhibit visual deficits relative to normally reared children. In view of the fact that we know little about the nature of the deficits, we can be at a loss in trying to formulate education strategies to help children overcome or compensate for their impairments. Data from Project Prakash will help Guide the design of effective rehabilitation procedures.

  3. Understanding mental health implications of childhood blindness:
    Extended visual deprivation can have a significant impact on long-term a child’s mental health. An integral component of a child’s mental health is the ability to interpret visual information about other people. Deficiencies in these skills can have devastating consequences. Project Prakash gives an opportunity to understand these mental health implications and to design techniques to overcome these impairments.

  4. Enhancing social acceptability & awareness of childhood blindness:
    Childhood blindness carries grave stigmas in the Indian society and is poorly understood by the population at large. Leading to superstitions, dangerous non-medical remedies, or, often no medical treatment for the affected children at all.

    A beneficial consequence of this project conducting in India is to increase awareness regarding this condition and the available treatment options. Furthermore, by highlighting the problem of childhood blindness in high profile international forums and journals, the project may catalyze the formulation and launch of additional initiatives by philanthropic and government agencies for countering the problem of childhood blindness all over the world.

  5. Facilitating Education:

    Project Prakash will likely provide valuable tools for education, enhancing the education of the under-graduate, graduate and post-doctoral students involved in the design and running of experimental studies.
For further details, please contact sumag@sceh.net