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Summary

People who report visual perceptual distortions, typically when reading, that are alleviated by using coloured filters are described as suffering from ‘Meares–Irlen Syndrome’. A recent double-masked placebo-controlled trial showed that this condition cannot be solely explained as a placebo effect and that the beneficial filter is idiosyncratic and sometimes needs to be highly specific. Several mechanisms have been suggested for Meares–Irlen Syndrome including ocular motor (binocular and accommodative) anomalies, a sensitivity to patterned stimuli (pattern glare), and a deficit of the transient visual sub-system. We investigated these hypotheses by comparing 16 children, who reported the symptoms described above and who showed a sustained benefit from coloured filters, with 25 control children who came from the same school and were matched for age, reading performance and intelligence. The ‘Meares–Irlen Syndrome’ group had slightly, but significantly, reduced vergence and accommodative amplitudes and stereo-acuity; they also demonstrated significantly more pattern glare. The two groups did not differ significantly in their visual acuities, refractive error, dissociated or associated heterophoria, AC/A ratio, or ability to perceive 20 Hz flicker. It appears that certain ocular motor factors are correlates of Meares–Irlen Syndrome, rather than the primary underlying cause of the symptoms. The results support the hypothesis that pattern glare may be involved in the mechanism of Meares–Irlen Syndrome.