Could mindfulness help ease the burden of visual snow?

UK researchers are exploring the role of mindfulness in helping people who see the world as if looking through a snow globe

A woman in jeans sits with one leg tucked underneath her on a chair in the centre of a living room. She has her eyes closed and a serene expression on her face. Behind her, there are pot plants, artwork, candles and a lamp.

Researchers from Moorfields Eye Hospital and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust are examining the effect of mindfulness on patients with visual snow syndrome.

The condition means that patients see persistent flickering dots, making their vision appear like television static or the view through a snow dome.

A new study, funded by the Visual Snow Initiative, explores whether mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy (MBCT) could retrain the brains of people with the condition to reduce the levels of static.

A preliminary study, published in the Journal of Neuro-Ophthalmology, found that MBCT improved visual snow symptoms and this was correlated with a change in the brain’s visual network.

Study lead, consultant neurologist and neuro-ophthalmologist, Sui Wong, shared: “In the new study, we will test how mindfulness can improve the brain’s visual network to filter out the unwanted images to improve or resolve symptoms of visual snow syndrome.”

Aila Collins, 29, took part in the initial study after developing visual snow in 2018. She underwent an eight-week course of MBCT.

“By the end of the two months I noticed some positive changes in the intensity of some of my symptoms,” she said.

People with severe visual snow, who have not previously practised mindfulness, are eligible to take part in the new study. More details are available online.