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Why do age-related macular degeneration patients have trouble recognizing faces?
Date:1/7/2013

s viewed one of the world's most famous faces: the Mona Lisa.

This technique allowed the researchers to record eye movements and where the patients looked (fixations) while looking at the face. They compared the findings in AMD patients to a control group of subjects with normal vision.

The results showed significant differences in eye movement patterns and fixations between groups. The AMD patients had fewer fixations on the internal features of the Mona Lisa's faceeyes, nose, and mouth. For controls, an average of 87 percent of fixations were on internal features, compared to only 13 percent on external features. In contrast, for AMD patients, 62 percent of fixations were on internal features while 38 percent were on external features.

The normal controls also tended to make fewer and shorter eye movements (called saccades) than AMD patients. The differences between groups did not appear to be related to the blurring of vision associated with AMD.

Some older adults with AMD report difficulties perceiving faces. While the problem in "processing faces" is certainly related to the overall sensory visual loss, the new evidence suggests that specific patterns of eye movement abnormalities may also play a role.

Dr Seiple and colleagues note that "abnormal scanning patterns when viewing faces" have also been found in other conditions associated with difficulties in face perception, including autism, social phobias, and schizophrenia. The authors discuss the possible mechanisms of the abnormal scanning patterns in AMD, involving the complex interplay between the eyes and brain in governing eye movement and interpreting visual information.

A previous study suggested that drawing attention to specific characteristicssuch as the internal facial featuresmay increase fixations on internal features and improve face perception. Dr Seiple and coauthors conclude, "That report gives hope that eye movement control trai
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Contact: Connie Hughes
Connie.Hughes@wolterskluwer.com
646-674-6348
Wolters Kluwer Health
Source:Eurekalert

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