We are really grateful to all our volunteers. You may have been just once to the lab, or many times, but we really appreciate you giving up your time to help us. We hope that you didn’t find the experience too difficult, and we also hope we helped you understand your (or your child’s) eyes better.

We find our volunteers from many sources. We would love any feedback from your experience. Please email Anna Horwood at a.m.horwood@reading.ac.uk.

Parents on The School of Psychology Infant Database

Parents on this database have agreed to be contacted if we need developmentally normal children to help with many studies going on in the School. A big group of you helped us between 1997 and 2008 to contribute to our unique study of infant vision development. Many of the parents came to the lab many times with tiny babies and still kept coming back even when the baby wasn’t keen on being tested! We have also used older children from the database when we needed “controls” for the studies of children with eye problems, and they have contributed to helping us build a unique longitudinal database of how eyes change as children grow.

You have helped with the developmental studies and the longitudinal database. Babies who helped us in the past also contributed to the studies of newborn squinting behaviour.

Recruited from the hospital eye clinic

These children with known eye problems had specific types of problems which we believed might be influenced by differences in focusing. We have been working for many years on a new way of thinking about how we drive our eyes. By looking at children where it has gone wrong in some way we believe we have shown that how individuals use the different clues from the outside world to tell us where to direct our focusing determines clinical differences.

You have helped with the convergent and divergent squint studies, the long-sight (hypermetropia) study and the anisometropia study and most recently, ongoing studies of constant squints and accommodation and convergence problems.

Premature babies

We obtained special permission to recruit these moderately premature babies from the Maternity Unit of the Royal Berkshire Hospital. This was always going to be a challenge, because premature babies are so small, precious, often asleep, difficult to test and often come in pairs (!). But we managed it! It has helped us work out whether convergence and accommodation are “hard wired” or depend on visual experience – an issue that is important for many childhood eye problems. Your data were compared with the full-term babies we had tested under the same conditions.

Teenagers and mature adults

Thank you to the teenagers, their parents and schools who have helped us “fill in the developmental gaps” in our developmental dataset. And also to the staff and friends who helped with the mature adult study. These two groups are important because focusing differences might explain why many teenagers become shortsighted. As we approach middle age, everyone starts to have focusing difficulties (presbyopia), and we are interested in whether we start to rely on different cues to drive our eyes.

We are still analyzing the data, but it is next on the list.

The Eye Exercise Trials

We know that many of you volunteered because you needed the course credit or the money, but we hope you found it interesting too! It involved a huge amount of work and commitment from all of us because there were eight experimental groups.

We really did have an open mind about what we would find, because we knew that placebo and practice effects could be as important as actual exercises. By doing this study, where everyone was tested under identical conditions, we have helped to answer some previously unanswered questions that have divided professionals for many years. Although some professional feel that more complex exercises are best, we found that the most important factor was the “personal trainer effect” – an enthusiastic tester got people performing better, even if they had not been doing any exercises, than people who had been practicing specific techniques.