Training on spatiotemporal masking improves crowded and uncrowded visual acuity

Oren Yehezkel, Anna Sterkin, Maria Lev, Uri Polat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Spatial crowding impairs conscious visual perception and object recognition in clutter. Short presentation times produce crowding in the normal fovea, in young participants and in uncorrected presbyopes ("aging eye"), measured as reduced visual acuity (VA). On the other hand, perceptual learning improves near VA in healthy young adults, in presbyopia, and in amblyopia. Here we aimed at exploring the effects of perceptual training on crowded VA in uncorrected presbyopes with naturally decreased VA, with two specific objectives: (a) to objectively measure crowded VA, taking advantage of the natural deterioration of near visual acuity from being normal or better than normal (i.e., 20/20 or better) in young participants to naturally decreasing in uncorrected presbyopes; and (b) to explore whether perceptual training previously shown to improve visual functions as complex as reading will affect crowded VA. Visual acuity was measured under crowded and uncrowded conditions by having subjects identify letters presented for short durations ranging from 34 to 116 msec. Training consisted of detecting brief Gabor stimuli under spatial and temporal masking conditions, using the GlassesOff mobile application (GlassesOff, Inc., New York, NY) on iOS devices from a distance of 40 cm. Before training, a robust reduction in crowded VA was found in the fovea of presbyopes. Training resulted in significant improvement of letter identification under both crowded and uncrowded VA conditions for all stimulus durations. After training, the crowded condition threshold reached the level of the uncrowded threshold measured before training. Thus, training enabled the subjects to overcome the effect of reduced VA under the crowded condition. We suggest that more efficient spatial and temporal processing induced by perceptual learning allows one to improve crowded VA, including that found on naturally reduced near VA, and that this effect may transfer to improve complex visual functions, such as reading and object recognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 ARVO.


  • Crowded conditions
  • Crowding
  • Perceptual learning
  • Presbyopia
  • Reading
  • Visual acuity


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