PURPOSE. To determine whether training oculomotor control, without direct practice in reading sentences, could increase reading speed in patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). METHODS. Sixteen patients with AMD participated in the study (age range, 65-87 years; mean, 77). The training program consisted of a series of exercises that were designed to allow the patients to practice eye movements. At the beginning of training, the subjects practiced small horizontal saccades in response to cognitively easy stimuli (e.g., dots). The training then progressed to practicing larger eye movements and then to practicing saccades with single letters, pairs of letters, and three-letter words. Reading of sentences was practiced in only one exercise, during the last session of the 8-week training. RESULTS. The difference between average reading speeds before and after training was 24.7 wpm (difference between medians, 17.9 wpm). The increase in speed was statistically significant (Wilcoxon signed rank test = 124.0, P < 0.001). There was no significant relationship between change in maximum reading speed and ETDRS (Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study) acuity (r = -0.14, P = 0.76) or between change in maximum reading speed and age (r = 0.25, P = 0.45). CONCLUSIONS. The results indicate that a training curriculum that concentrates on eye-movement control can increase reading speed in patients with AMD. This finding is especially interesting, because the training involved little direct practice in reading sentences but instead concentrated on having subjects practice control of eye positions and eye movements.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience