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Marcello Maniglia, Vincent Soler, Yves Trotter; Combining fixation and lateral masking training enhances perceptual learning effects in patients with macular degeneration. Journal of Vision 2020;20(10):19. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.10.19.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Macular degeneration (MD), a retinal disease affecting central vision, represents the leading cause of visual impairment in the Western world, and MD patients face severe limitations in daily activities like reading and face recognition. A common compensation strategy adopted by these patients involves the use of a region in the spared peripheral retina as a new fixation spot and oculomotor reference (preferred retinal locus, or PRL). Still, peripheral vision is characterized by poorer visual acuity, fixation stability, and larger crowding zones that further hinder processes like object recognition, visual search, and reading. Perceptual learning (PL) has been successfully used to improve visual acuity in mild visual conditions (e.g., presbyopia, amblyopia and myopia), but results in MD are less clear, often showing limited generalization of learning, unlike what is observed in a healthy population. A possible reason is the suboptimal fixation in the PRL that might prevent patients from processing the briefly presented training stimuli. Following this hypothesis, we trained five MD patients and four age- and eccentricity-matched controls with a protocol that combined contrast detection and a task previously used to train fixation stability. Results showed transfer of learning to crowding reduction, reading speed, and visual acuity in both MD patients and controls. These results suggest that in the case of central vision loss, PL training might benefit from the integration of oculomotor components to optimize the effect of training and promote transfer of learning to other visual functions.
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