The impact of blurred vision on cognitive assessment

J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2007 Jul;29(5):467-76. doi: 10.1080/13803390600770793.


The purpose of this study was to systematically assess the effect of blurred vision on several nonverbal neuropsychological measures commonly used as part of test batteries to assess the cognitive status of different patient populations. A total of 30 highly educated and healthy participants aged between 21 and 33 years were placed in one of three blurred vision groups, defined by their maximal visual acuity (20/20 or control group, 20/40, and 20/60). Blurred vision was simulated using positive diopters at a distance of 40 cm, the same distance as that at which tests were administered. Each participant was then assessed on a predetermined battery of nonverbal and verbal neuropsychological tests demanding different levels of acuity for optimal performance (i.e., tests whose items varied in terms of size and spatial frequency characteristics). In general, blurred vision significantly affected performance on nonverbal tests defined by small-sized/high-spatial-frequency items to a greater extent than on tests defined by larger sized/lower spatial-frequency items. As expected, blurred vision did not affect verbal test performance (Similarities, Information, and Arithmetic WAIS subtests). Our results are a clear indication of how even a "minimal" loss of visual acuity (20/40) can have a significant effect on the performance for certain nonverbal tests. In conclusion, such inferior performance is hypothetically interpretable as reflecting impaired cognitive functioning (i.e., attentional) targeted by a specific task (i.e., visual search) and suggests that the precision of the cognitive assessment and subsequent diagnosis are significantly biased when visuo-sensory abilities are not optimal, particularly for older patient populations where blurred vision resulting from correctable visual impairment is quite common.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Vision Tests
  • Vision, Low / physiopathology*
  • Visual Acuity / physiology*