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Andrew T. Astle, Alan J. Blighe, Ben S. Webb, Paul V. McGraw; The effect of normal aging and age-related macular degeneration on perceptual learning. Journal of Vision 2015;15(10):16. doi: 10.1167/15.10.16.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
We investigated whether perceptual learning could be used to improve peripheral word identification speed. The relationship between the magnitude of learning and age was established in normal participants to determine whether perceptual learning effects are age invariant. We then investigated whether training could lead to improvements in patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Twenty-eight participants with normal vision and five participants with AMD trained on a word identification task. They were required to identify three-letter words, presented 10° from fixation. To standardize crowding across each of the letters that made up the word, words were flanked laterally by randomly chosen letters. Word identification performance was measured psychophysically using a staircase procedure. Significant improvements in peripheral word identification speed were demonstrated following training (71% ± 18%). Initial task performance was correlated with age, with older participants having poorer performance. However, older adults learned more rapidly such that, following training, they reached the same level of performance as their younger counterparts. As a function of number of trials completed, patients with AMD learned at an equivalent rate as age-matched participants with normal vision. Improvements in word identification speed were maintained at least 6 months after training. We have demonstrated that temporal aspects of word recognition can be improved in peripheral vision with training across a range of ages and these learned improvements are relatively enduring. However, training targeted at other bottlenecks to peripheral reading ability, such as visual crowding, may need to be incorporated to optimize this approach.
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