All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Kristina Visscher

Advisory Committee Members

Karlene K Ball

Timothy J Gawne

Lei Lui

Lawrence Sincich

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Optometry


Vision is our most far-reaching sense. It allows us to quickly detect information about the environment and enhances our ability to interact with the world around us. Accordingly, many neural areas are devoted to obtaining, processing, and interpreting visual information. When vision is impaired through normal aging or disease processes, the functional implications for a person can be quite significant. This is particularly true when a person is deprived of high acuity, central vision. Many people with bilateral central visual impairments learn to compensate for vision loss by adopting a viewing strategy that involves the use of the peripheral retina. This strategy allows them to detect detailed visual information with greater resolution than normally experienced with their condition. In some cases, individuals develop a new point of oculomotor reference called a preferred retinal locus (PRL) that is used in a manner similar to the defunct fovea for planning saccadic eye movements and fixating upon targets of interest. How certain individuals develop and learn to effectively use a PRL is still debated. The process can take months to years to occur in a natural setting. Research has shown that individuals with healthy vision can be trained to develop a PRL in a relatively short period of time. Inducing a PRL in a controlled, laboratory setting offers the ability to continuously record and analyze eye movements as an individual experiences simulated central vision loss and learns to effectively utilize a PRL. iv This dissertation aims to quantify how oculomotor behaviors change as a person undergoes training to use a PRL for everyday tasks. The first aim was to understand how peripheral vision training influences eye movements. The second aim was to understand how such eye movement changes relate to changes in behavior. This dissertation presents three main findings: 1) training results in improvements in all oculomotor metrics, 2) the rate of learning is similar for all oculomotor metrics but slightly faster for saccadic precision as compared to fixation stability, and 3) training results in increased accuracy on behavioral tasks. These results suggest that laboratory training may prove useful for patients who wish to accelerate their acquisition of a stable PRL for improved vision.

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