The effect of age-related macular degeneration on cognitive test performance

Anne Macnamara*, Victor R. Schinazi, Celia Chen, Scott Coussens, Tobias Loetscher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
43 Downloads (Pure)


The reliable assessment of cognitive functioning is critical to the study of brain-behaviour relationships. Yet conditions that are synchronous which ageing, including visual decline, are easily overlooked when interpreting cognitive test scores. The purpose of this study was to demonstrate the negative consequences of visual impairments on cognitive tests performance. Moderate to severe levels of age-related macular degeneration were simulated, with a set of goggles, in a sample of twenty-four normally sighted participants while they completed two cognitive tasks: a vision-dependent reaction time task and a vision-independent verbal fluency test. Performance on the reaction time task significantly decreased (p < 0.001) in the simulated age-related macular degeneration condition, by as much as 25 percentile ranks. In contrast, performance on the verbal fluency test were not statistically different between the simulated and normal vision conditions (p = 0.78). The findings highlight the importance of considering visual functioning when assessing cognitive function. When vision is not accounted for, low test scores may inaccurately indicate poor cognition. Such false attributions may have significant ramification for diagnosis and research on cognitive functioning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4033
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2022


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