A recent study provides an insight into why those with visual snow might suffer more from anxiety and other mental health related issues. Such issues may actually be influenced by the functioning of the visual cortex.
It seems possible that visual snow might impact on areas of the brain not directly involved in vision. Anxiety, concentration difficulties, depersonalisation are all quite commonly associated symptoms.
Part of this may involve the underlying etiology which remains uncertain, another part may also be the consequences with which we’re already familiar. Anecdotally you can imagine that simply being aware of disturbing visual symptoms all the time could impact on mental health.
To try and then explain this properly there are multiple possible explanations, but few so far that would reference visual areas specifically.
The Visual Cortex And Mental Health
Now however, poor communication and connectivity between areas of the visual cortex has been found to link with an increased risk of mental illness.
The study in question recently found that people who reported a greater number or intensity of psychiatric symptoms also had visual networks that didn’t function so well. The visual cortex links with complex cognitive areas responsible for focus, planning, and introspection: so it also affects these areas in ways previously perhaps underestimated.
For those with visual snow by virtue of a possible hyperexcitability communication between these areas may also be compromised – either directly or through what becomes a pathological adaptation. Some cognitive symptoms in visual snow could therefore possibly relate back to the improper functioning of the visual cortex itself.
More research will hopefully follow to carry on exploring this connection between the visual cortex and mental health. As more is learnt about visual snow the implications of associated cognitive symptoms will also become clearer.
(You can read a full preprint version of the study here)