Alex Bowers is an Optometrist with a Ph.D. in Vision Rehabilitation Research from Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland. She recently joined the faculty after completing a postdoctoral position in Dr Peli’s lab at the Schepens Eye Research Institute.
In many parts of the US, driving is the primary means of mobility and being permitted to drive is an important factor in quality of life for most people.
Our research encompasses three main areas: (1) Evaluating the effects of vision impairment on driving skills and behaviors; (2) Investigating the relationship between driving performance and novel tests of vision and attention to determine which tests have the greatest potential for identifying at-risk drivers; and (3) Evaluating the benefits of optical devices to assist visually impaired people when driving and walking. We use the realistic, but controlled environment of a high-fidelity driving simulator to evaluate the impact of central vision loss (e.g. due to age-related macular degeneration), peripheral vision loss (e.g. due to glaucoma or retinitis pigmentosa) and hemianopic visual field loss (loss of half the field of vision e.g. after a stroke). We are evaluating the effects of these vision impairments on detection of hazards while driving, on steering and lane-keeping skills, and on eye and head movement behaviors.
When evaluating the benefits of optical devices for mobility tasks, we use two main approaches: (1) Laboratory-based studies including assessments in controlled environments such as the driving simulator; and (2) Multi-center clinical trials using community-based low vision clinics where the primary outcome measures are clinical success (whether the devices are still being used 6 months after being prescribed) and participants’ reports of the benefits of the devices (assessed by questionnaires).
Concetta Alberti, Ph.D.