PURPOSE: Subjects with albinism usually suffer from nystagmus and reduced visual acuity, which may impair reading performance. The contribution of nystagmus to decreased reading ability is not known. Low vision and nystagmus may have an additive effect. We aimed to address this question by motion compensation of the nystagmus in affected subjects and by simulating nystagmus in healthy controls.
METHODS: Reading speed and eye movements were assessed in 9 subjects with nystagmus associated with albinism and in 12 healthy controls. We compared the reading ability with steady word presentation and with words presented on a gaze contingent display where words move in parallel to the nystagmus and thus correct for the nystagmus. As the control, healthy subjects were asked to read words and texts in steady reading conditions as well as text passages that moved in a pattern similar to nystagmus.
RESULTS: Correcting nystagmus with a gaze contingent display neither improved nor reduced the reading speed for single words. Subjects with nystagmus and healthy participants achieved comparable reading speed when reading steady texts. However, movement of text in healthy controls caused a significantly reduced reading speed and more regressive saccades.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results argue against nystagmus as the rate limiting factor for reading speed when words were presented in high enough magnification and support the notion that other sensory visual impairments associated with albinism (for example reduced visual acuity) might be the primary causes for reading impairment.