Crowding, the adverse spatial interaction due to the proximity of adjacent targets, has been suggested as an explanation for slow reading in peripheral vision. Previously, we showed that increased line spacing, which presumably reduces crowding between adjacent lines of text, improved reading speed in the normal periphery (Chung, Optom Vis Sci 2004;81:525–35). The purpose of this study was to examine whether or not individuals with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) would benefit from increased line spacing for reading.
Experiment 1: Eight subjects with AMD read aloud 100-word passages rendered at five line spacings: the standard single spacing, 1.5×, 2×, 3×, and 4× the standard spacing. Print sizes were 1× and 2× of the critical print size. Reading time and number of reading errors for each passage were measured to compute the reading speed. Experiment 2: Four subjects with AMD read aloud sequences of six 4-letter words, presented on a computer monitor using the rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) paradigm. Target words were presented singly, or flanked above and below by two other words that changed in synchrony with the target word, at various vertical word separations. Print size was 2× the critical print size. Reading speed was calculated based on the RSVP exposure duration that yielded 80% of the words read correctly.
Averaged across subjects, reading speeds for passages were virtually constant for the range of line spacings tested. For sequences of unrelated words, reading speeds were also virtually constant for the range of vertical word separations tested, except at the smallest (standard) separation at which reading speed was lower.
Contrary to the previous finding that reading speed improved in normal peripheral vision, increased line spacing in passages, or increased vertical separation between words in RSVP, did not lead to improved reading speed in people with AMD.