A double dissociation of the acuity and crowding limits to letter identification, and the promise of improved visual screening

Shuang Song, Dennis M. Levi, Denis G. Pelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Here, we systematically explore the size and spacing requirements for identifying a letter among other letters. We measure acuity for flanked and unflanked letters, centrally and peripherally, in normals and amblyopes. We find that acuity, overlap masking, and crowding each demand a minimum size or spacing for readable text. Just measuring flanked and unflanked acuity is enough for our proposed model to predict the observer's threshold size and spacing for letters at any eccentricity. We also find that amblyopia in adults retains the character of the childhood condition that caused it. Amblyopia is a developmental neural deficit that can occur as a result of either strabismus or anisometropia in childhood. Peripheral viewing during childhood due to strabismus results in amblyopia that is crowding limited, like peripheral vision. Optical blur of one eye during childhood due to anisometropia without strabismus results in amblyopia that is acuity limited, like blurred vision. Furthermore, we find that the spacing:acuity ratio of flanked and unflanked acuity can distinguish strabismic amblyopia from purely anisometropic amblyopia in nearly perfect agreement with lack of stereopsis. A scatter diagram of threshold spacing versus acuity, one point per patient, for several diagnostic groups, reveals the diagnostic power of flanked acuity testing. These results and two demonstrations indicate that the sensitivity of visual screening tests can be improved by using flankers that are more tightly spaced and letter like. Finally, in concert with Strappini, Pelli, Di Pace, and Martelli (submitted), we jointly report a double dissociation between acuity and crowding. Two clinical conditions-anisometropic amblyopia and apperceptive agnosia-each selectively impair either acuity A or the spacing:acuity ratio S/A, not both. Furthermore, when we specifically estimate crowding, we find a double dissociation between acuity and crowding. Models of human object recognition will need to accommodate this newly discovered independence of acuity and crowding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3
JournalJournal of vision
Volume14
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems

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