Research study looking for volunteers

Posted: Friday 08 March 2019

As part of a research study at Ulster University, funded by the Macular Society, volunteers affected by age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and healthy controls are invited to help investigate sensitivity to light in those with AMD.

The retina at the back of the eye contains light sensitive cells and nerve fibres which allow us to see. Vision is most sensitive in the central part of the retina called the macula. This is because there is a higher number of light sensitive cells and nerve fibres in this area providing detailed, central vision. Sometimes the macula can become damaged, leading to a loss of this kind of vision. Unfortunately, this occurs in AMD.

Central visual field examination is a type of vision test increasingly being used in the detection and monitoring of AMD in hospital eye clinics and in research. The test involves the patient staring at a central cross and pressing a button to indicate if they have detected white spots of light on a grey background which appear at various locations. This allows a sensitivity map of the macula to be produced. Current visual field tests, where spots of light only vary in brightness, are poor at detecting early AMD and monitoring disease progression.

Previous work in other eye diseases has shown that the sensitivity of visual field tests to the damage these diseases cause can be improved by simply changing the size of the spot used and how long the spots are presented for on the screen. However, there has been a lack of research of this type in AMD.

This study therefore aims to understand how the eye collects light in AMD compared to healthy controls, in order to help inform the design of a test specialized for the detection of AMD. To investigate this, we intend to carry out visual field tests with spots of varying size and duration in both AMD participants and healthy controls. All measurements performed as part of the study are non-invasive and will be performed by appropriately qualified clinicians.

If you are interested in taking part in this study as a healthy control or AMD volunteer, or have any questions relating to this research, please contact Aoife Hunter on 028 7012 3718 or at