Visual Snow Syndrome as a Network Disorder: A Systematic Review.

Klein, Antonia; Schankin, Christoph J. (2021). Visual Snow Syndrome as a Network Disorder: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in neurology, 12(724072), p. 724072. Frontiers Media S.A. 10.3389/fneur.2021.724072

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Aim: By reviewing the existing clinical studies about visual snow (VS) as a symptom or as part of visual snow syndrome (VSS), we aim at improving our understanding of VSS being a network disorder. Background: Patients with VSS suffer from a continuous visual disturbance resembling the view of a badly tuned analog television (i.e., VS) and other visual, as well as non-visual symptoms. These symptoms can persist over years and often strongly impact the quality of life. The exact prevalence is still unknown, but up to 2.2% of the population could be affected. Presently, there is no established treatment, and the underlying pathophysiology is unknown. In recent years, there have been several approaches to identify the brain areas involved and their interplay to explain the complex presentation. Methods: We collected the clinical and paraclinical evidence from the currently published original studies on VS and its syndrome by searching PubMed and Google Scholar for the term visual snow. We included original studies in English or German and excluded all reviews, case reports that did not add new information to the topic of this review, and articles that were not retrievable in PubMed or Google Scholar. We grouped the studies according to the methods that were used. Results: Fifty-three studies were found for this review. In VSS, the clinical spectrum includes additional visual disturbances such as excessive floaters, palinopsia, nyctalopia, photophobia, and entoptic phenomena. There is also an association with other perceptual and affective disorders as well as cognitive symptoms. The studies that have been included in this review demonstrate structural, functional, and metabolic alterations in the primary and/or secondary visual areas of the brain. Beyond that, results indicate a disruption in the pre-cortical visual pathways and large-scale networks including the default mode network and the salience network. Discussion: The combination of the clinical picture and widespread functional and structural alterations in visual and extra-visual areas indicates that the VSS is a network disorder. The involvement of pre-cortical visual structures and attentional networks might result in an impairment of "filtering" and prioritizing stimuli as top-down process with subsequent excessive activation of the visual cortices when exposed to irrelevant external and internal stimuli. Limitations of the existing literature are that not all authors used the ICHD-3 definition of the VSS. Some were referring to the symptom VS, and in many cases, the control groups were not matched for migraine or migraine aura.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Review Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Head Organs and Neurology (DKNS) > Clinic of Neurology

UniBE Contributor:

Klein, Antonia and Schankin, Christoph Josef


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




Frontiers Media S.A.




Chantal Kottler

Date Deposited:

08 Dec 2021 13:41

Last Modified:

12 Dec 2021 02:17

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

electrophysiology imaging network disorder neuroophtalmology perceptual disorder systematic (literature) review visual disturbance visual snow syndrome




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