Word Mode: a crowding-free reading protocol for individuals with macular disease

Stuart Wallis, Yit Yang, Stephen J. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Central retinal loss through macular disease markedly reduces the ability to read largely because identification of a word using peripheral vision is negatively influenced by nearby text, a phenomenon termed visual crowding. Here, we present a novel peripheral reading protocol, termed Word Mode, that eliminates crowding by presenting each word in isolation but in a position that mimics its natural position in the line of text being read, with each new word elicited using a self-paced button press. We used a gaze-contingent paradigm to simulate a central scotoma in four normally-sighted observers, and measured oral reading speed for text positioned 7.5° in the inferior field. Compared with reading whole sentences, our crowding-free protocol increased peripheral reading speeds by up to a factor of seven, resulted in significantly fewer reading errors and fixations per sentence, and reduced both the critical print size and the text size required for spot reading by 0.2–0.3 logMAR. We conclude that the level of reading efficiency afforded by the crowding-free reading protocol Word Mode may return reading as a viable activity to many individuals with macular disease.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1241
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Copyright: The Author(s) 2018. Open Access - This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

Funding: donation from the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust.


  • Object vision, Perception, Reading


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