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School of Health Sciences

Darkness Falls – A study on problems with lighting, mobility and everyday tasks in people with age-related macular degeneration


1st supervisor: Professor David Crabb

2nd supervisor: Dr Shashi Hirani

Research Centres

Project Description

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of sight loss affecting the elderly population; the impact of the disease is substantial and rising. Treatments can help preserve sight in patients with some forms of (wet) AMD. Now, new treatments to prevent people worsening to the late stage of the dry-form of AMD, called geographic atrophy (GA), are on the horizon.

In GA, sight loss is typically measured by letter charts or by ‘photographing’ changes in the retina at the back of the eye. Yet, little is actually known about how gradual sight loss in GA impacts on patients’ everyday life. This short film, developed in the Crabb Lab, gives an idea about what it is like to have GA.  

The aim of this PhD study is to illuminate the difficulty patients with GA have with ‘visual activities’. In particular we will assess impact of lighting conditions on performance of everyday tasks.  These experiments will take advantage of a state-of-the-art instrument that examines dark adaptation—the recovery of vision when going from daylight to darkness.

The study will examine the relationship between this laboratory based test and surrogates of tasks like searching for objects, recognising road signs and everyday function and mobility in a kitchen or living environment. The latter will take advantage of a state-of-the-art facility in the School of Health Science.

The Crabb Lab consists of a mixture of researchers from optometry, psychology and computer science. We focus on measurement of vision and we relate stages of chronic eye disease and subsequent visual disability to everyday life.

Recommended Skills / Prior Learning

  1. A suitable masters level qualification with a research component
  2. Ability to carry out experiments with elderly patients and volunteers
  3. Ability to  design experiments and analyse data