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Bianca Huurneman, F. Nienke Boonstra, Jeroen Goossens; Perceptual Learning in Children With Infantile Nystagmus: Effects on Reading Performance. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2016;57(10):4239-4246. doi: 10.1167/iovs.16-19556.
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Perceptual learning improves visual acuity and reduces crowding in children with infantile nystagmus (IN). Here, we compare reading performance of 6- to 11-year-old children with IN with normal controls, and evaluate whether perceptual learning improves their reading.
Children with IN were divided in two training groups: a crowded training group (n = 18; albinism: n = 8; idiopathic IN: n = 10) and an uncrowded training group (n = 17; albinism: n = 9; idiopathic IN: n = 8). Also 11 children with normal vision participated. Outcome measures were: reading acuity (the smallest readable font size), maximum reading speed, critical print size (font size below which reading is suboptimal), and acuity reserve (difference between reading acuity and critical print size). We used multiple regression analyses to test if these reading parameters were related to the children's uncrowded distance acuity and/or crowding scores.
Reading acuity and critical print size were 0.65 ± 0.04 and 0.69 ± 0.08 log units larger for children with IN than for children with normal vision. Maximum reading speed and acuity reserve did not differ between these groups. After training, reading acuity improved by 0.12 ± 0.02 logMAR and critical print size improved by 0.11 ± 0.04 logMAR in both IN training groups. The changes in reading acuity, critical print size, and acuity reserve of children with IN were tightly related to changes in their uncrowded distance acuity and the changes in magnitude and extent of crowding.
Our findings are the first to show that visual acuity is not the only factor that restricts reading in children with IN, but that crowding also limits their reading performance. By targeting both of these spatial bottlenecks in children with IN, our perceptual learning paradigms significantly improved their reading acuity and critical print size. This shows that perceptual learning can effectively transfer to reading.
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