Improving face identity perception in age-related macular degeneration via caricaturing

Jo Lane, Emilie Rohan, Faran SABETI, Rohan W. Essex, Ted Maddess, Nick Barnes, Xuming He, Rachel Robbins, Tamara Gradden, Elinor McKone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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Patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) have difficulty recognising people’s faces. We tested whether this could be improved using caricaturing: an image enhancement procedure derived from cortical coding in a perceptual ‘face-space’. Caricaturing exaggerates the distinctive ways in which an individual’s face shape differs from the average. We tested 19 AMD-affected eyes (from 12 patients; ages 66–93 years) monocularly, selected to cover the full range of vision loss. Patients rated how different in identity people’s faces appeared when compared in pairs (e.g., two young men, both Caucasian), at four caricature strengths (0, 20, 40, 60% exaggeration). This task gives data reliable enough to analyse statistically at the individual-eye level. All 9 eyes with mild vision loss (acuity ≥ 6/18) showed significant improvement in identity discrimination (higher dissimilarity ratings) with caricaturing. The size of improvement matched that in normal-vision young adults. The caricature benefit became less stable as visual acuity further decreased, but caricaturing was still effective in half the eyes with moderate and severe vision loss (significant improvement in 5 of 10 eyes; at acuities from 6/24 to poorer than <6/360). We conclude caricaturing has the potential to help many AMD patients recognise faces.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15205
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sept 2018


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