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Angela Brown, PhD

Award Name Pilot and Collaborative Studies Award
Award Date 12/01/2010


Measuring visual contrast sensitivity in infants and patients with multiple handicap

Angela Brown, PhDThe Ohio State University’s Center for Clinical and Transitional Science awarded Angela Brown, PhD, with a pilot award for her research involving pediatric visual contrast sensitivity tests.

Brown’s goal is to develop a method for eye doctors to measure contrast sensitivity in infants, children, multiple-handicapped patients, and anyone else who cannot read and report the letters on an eye chart.

Contrast sensitivity is the smallest difference between the white paper and faint letters that a patient can read, and is measured by determining the lowest contrast that a patient can read at a specific distance. Doctors measure adult contrast sensitivity using a Pelli-Robson chart.

Brown recognized there is a need for contrast sensitivity measurement in more than just literate adults. “What about people who can’t read?” Brown said.

To measure visual acuity in babies, Brown shows them black and white stripes, or dark gray and light gray stripes, that are presented within a gray surrounding field, where the average of the black and white stripes is the same as the gray stripes. She then observes the baby’s looking behavior through a tiny peephole to determine whether he/she can see the stripes. The baby’s contrast sensitivity is the lowest-contrast grating the baby will look at reliably.

Measuring contrast sensitivity in young children can help predict how well the child can function in the world. Many tasks in everyday life, for example mobility, are critically limited by the person’s ability to see large things, such as obstacles. If a child’s visual acuity is low, there are small devices that can help by magnifying written material so the child can learn to read. If the contrast sensitivity is poor, then there is no known device that can help.

Brown hopes that her research can be used to help diagnose poor contrast sensitivity in nonverbal patients. She plans to continue her translational research to help improve the clinical care of infants and children.

By Charaun Little, April 5, 2012

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