Role of peripheral vision in terms of critical perception – its relevance to the visually impaired



It is recognised that discrimination of fine detail is dependent on an intact macula with the peripheral retina being responsible for motion detection. There is evidence, however, to suggest that the peripheral retina does play a critical part in such discrimination. Studies of the performance of visually impaired school children have revealed levels of visual perception far exceeding anything that would be expected for individuals so severely handicapped. The art work of visually impaired youngsters was compared with the predicted results based on their visual acuity. The results showed detail that in theory could not have been resolved with such low acuity levels. All the youngsters had dense central scotomata. The peripheral retina, therefore, must have been involved in the discrimination of such detail. These results have implications not only for the visually impaired in terms of what they are capable of doing, but also for our understanding about the way the visual cortex processes information from the peripheral retina and the use that it makes of this relatively poor quality information.