Learning difficulties and dyslexia

lady performing eye research with Cerium Tints

Professor Peter Allen, Dr Keziah Lathan, Ms Rupal Lovell Patel, Ms Laura Monger, Mr Richard Hollingsworth, Mrs Maria Foteini Katsou. Collaboration between Visual Function and Physiology Research Group and the Department of Vision and Hearing Sciences

Current activity 

  • To research into factors that influence visual stress in both typically developing children and those with developmental disorders

  • To assess visual function in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Deafness.

  • To investigate the usage of colour as a therapeutic intervention in children with specific learning difficulties

  • To investigate the ERG and VEP of people who experience difficulty reading


Our research is the first to show objective correlates of Pattern-Related Visual Stress (PRVS). It is extremely exciting as currently this subject area is controversial mainly based on the highly subjective nature of both the presentation and screening for the condition - our work has demonstrated potential methods to screen, test and monitor PRVS. This work is multidisciplinary in nature (alongside psychology). This work is at a very exciting stage with collaborations occurring with colleagues from Essex University and the University of Bradford where we are further investigating this condition using adaptive optics imaging and electro-diagnostic techniques and with the Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors (Dortmund) where we are investigating binocularity while reading.
Richard Hollingsworth (under the supervision of Professor Allen) is investigating visual function in the deaf as part of his PhD studies. This has received a lot of interest due in part to the data being collected at the Royal School for the Deaf but also as it is the first work to fully investigate near visual function in the deaf. Early findings are suggestive of a magnocellular deficit in the deaf and work is on-going to further investigate this potentially extremely important finding. 
Dr Latham is investigating differences in visual function in people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). We have clarified that visual acuity, limited at a retinal level, is no different in those with and without ASD. We are now investigating differences in spatial localisation, a task limited at the cortical level. This is an exciting avenue of research which has already demonstrated some differences in early cortical visual processing between those with and without ASD, and the research team also includes Professor Baron-Cohen (Cambridge University), Professor Chung (University of California, Berkeley) and Professor Allen (Anglia Ruskin University).
In 2012 the visual acuity standards for driving in the UK changed so that in addition to being able to read a number plate at 20m, drivers must also have a visual acuity of at least 6/12. MPhil student Maria Katsou, supervised by Dr Latham, is investigating the relationship between these two visual standards so that optometrists can give appropriate advice to their patients on their visual fitness to drive.


Hollingsworth, R., Ludlow, A., Wilkins, A.J., Calver, R.I. and Allen, P.M. (2013). Visual performance in deaf children: A literature review. Acta Ophthalmologica. (in press)
Haigh, S.M., Jaschinski, J., Allen, P.M. and Wilkins, A.J. (2013). Accommodation to uncomfortable patterns. Perception, 42, 208-22.
Latham, L., Chung, S.T.L., Allen, P.M., Tavasolli, T. and Baron-Cohen, S. (2013) Spatial localisation in autism: evidence for differences in early cortical visual processing. Molecular Autism, 4, 4.


2011 Objective correlates of Visual Stress and the development of an evidence-based protocol. P.M. Allen. College of Optometrists: £55,000