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Summary by Greg Robinson


 Dr. Greg Robinson

Professor of Special Education at the University of Newcastle, Australia

Studies which support the use of coloured filters have reported improvements in reading when using coloured plastic overlays, coloured computer monitors or when illuminating text with coloured light (Bouldoukian, Wilkins, & Evans, 2002; Chase, Ashourzadeh, Kelly, Monfette, & Kinsey, 2003; Croyle, 1998; Evans & Joseph, 2002; Jeanes, Busby, Martin, Lewis, Stevenson, Pointon et al., 1997; Noble, Orton, Irlen, & Robinson, 2004; Northway, 2003; Scott, McWhinnie, Taylor, Stevenson, Irons, & Lewis, 2002; Solan, Brannan, Ficarra, & Byrne, 1997; Solan, Ficarra, Brannan, & Rucker, 1998; Tyrrell, Holland, Dennis, & Wilkins, 1995; Wilkins & Lewis, 1999; Wilkins, Lewis, Smith, Rowland, & Tweedie, 2001; Williams, Le Cluyse, & Littell, 1996).  

There are also studies which report improvements in eye strain, headaches and reading when using coloured lenses (Chronicle & Wilkins, 1991; Evans, Patel, & Wilkins, 2002; Good, Taylor, & Mortimer, 1991; Harris & MacRow-Hill, 1999; Lightstone, Lightstone, & Wilkins, 1999; Robinson & Conway, 2000; Robinson & Foreman, 1999, Wilkins, Patel, Adjamian, & Evans, 2002.  A number of studies have used placebo controls (Bouldoukian, Wilkins, & Evans, 2002; Jeanes et al., 1997; Robinson & Foreman, 1999; Wilkins, Evans, Brown, Busby, Wingfield, Jeanes, & Bald, 1994; Wilkins & Lewis, 1999). These studies have all been reported in peer reviewed journals, using reviewers with expertise in their fields who are unlikely to recommend the publication of studies which are not well controlled or have serious methodological flaws.   

In addition, a credible scientific theory has been presented and discussed in the literature for some years. This theory relates to a deficit in the magnocellular visual neurological pathway. A recent review of research and series of studies relating to this theory has been published by Chase et al. (2003). The paper by Chase et al. outlines a number of studies which suggest that red light disrupts magnocellular tasks and that the use of blue filters (which filter red light) results in an improvement in reading performance. 


Bouldoukian, J., Wilkins, A.J., & Evans, B.J.W. (2002). Randomised controlled trial of the effect of coloured overlays on the rate of reading of people with specific learning difficulties. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 22, 55-60. 

 Chase, C., Ashourzadeh, A., Kelly, C., Monfette, S., & Kinsey, K. (2003). Can the magnocellular pathway read? Evidence from studies of colour. Vision Research, 43, 1211-1222.   

Chronicle, E.P. & Wilkins, A.J. (1991). Colour and visual discomfort in migraineurs. The Lancet, 338, 890.  Croyle, L. (1998). Rate of reading, visual processing, colour and contrast. Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, 3(3), 13-20. 

 Evans, B.J.W., & Joseph, F. (2002). The effect of coloured filters on the rate of reading in an adult study population. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 22, 525-535. 

 Evans, B.J.W., Patel, R., & Wilkins A.J. (2002). Optometric function in visually sensitive migraine before and after treatment with tinted spectacles. Ophthalmological and Physiological Optics, 22, 130-142. 

 Good, P.A., Taylor, R.H., & Mortimer, M.J. (1991). The use of tinted glasses in childhood migraine. Headache, September, 533-536. 

 Harris, D. & MacRow-Hill (1999). Application of Chroma-Gen haloscopic lenses to patients with dyslexia: A double-masked placebo-controlled trial. Journal of the Optometric Association, 70(1), 629-640. 

 Jeanes, R., Busby, A., Martin, J., Lewis, E., Stevenson, N., Pointon, D., & Wilkins, A. (1997). Prolonged use of coloured overlays for classroom reading. British Journal of Psychology, 88, 531-548. 

 Lightstone, A., Lightstone, T., & Wilkins, A.J. (1999). Both coloured overlays and coloured lenses can improve reading fluency, but their optimal chromacities differ. Ophthalmological and Physiological Optics, 19(4), 279-285. 

 Noble, J., Orton, M., Irlen, S., & Robinson, G.L. (2004). A field study of the use of coloured overlays on reading achievement. Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, 9(2), 14-26. 

 Northway, N. (2003). Predicting the continued use of overlays in school children: A comparison of the Development Eye Movement test and the Rate of Reading test. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 23(5), 457-463. 

 Robinson, G.L., & Conway, R.N.F. (2000). Irlen lenses and adults: A small scale study of reading speed, accuracy, comprehension and self-image. Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, 5(1), 4-13. 

 Robinson, G.L., & Foreman, P.J. (1999). Scotopic Sensitivity/Irlen Syndrome and the use of coloured filters: A long-term placebo controlled and masked study of reading achievement and perception of ability. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 89, 83-113. 

 Scott, L., McWhinnie, H., Taylor, L., Stevenson, N., Irons, P., Lewis, E., Evans, B., & Wilkins, A. (2002). Coloured overlays in schools: Orthoptic and optometric findings. Ophthalmological and Physiological Optics, 22, 156-165. 

 Solan, H.A., Brannan, J.R., Ficarra, A., & Byrne, R. (1997). Transient and sustained processing: Effects of varying luminance and wavelength on reading comprehension. Journal of the American Optometric Association, 68(8), 502-510. 

 Solan, H.A., Ficarra, A., Brannan, J.R., & Rucker, F. (1998). Eye movement effiency in normal and reading disabled elementary school children: Effects of varying luminance and wavelength. Journal of the American Optometric Association, 69(7), 455-464. 

 Tyrrell, R., Holland, K., Dennis, D., & Wilkins, A. (1995). Coloured overlays, visual discomfort, visual search and classroom reading. Research in Reading, 18, 10-23. 

 Wilkins, A.J., Evans, B.J.W., Brown, J.A., Busby, A.E., Wingfield, A.E., Jeanes, R.J., &  Bald, J. (1994). Double-masked placebo-controlled trial of precision spectral filters in children who use coloured overlays. Ophthalmological and Physiological Optics, 14, 365-370. 

 Wilkins, A.J. & Lewis, E. (1999). Coloured overlays, text and texture. Perception, 28, 641-650. 

 Wilkins, A.J., Lewis, E., Smith, F., Rowland, F., & Tweedie, W. (2001). Coloured overlays and their benefits for reading. Journal of Research in Reading, 24(1), 41-64. 

 Wilkins, A.J., Patel, R., Adjamian, P., & Evans, B.J.W. (2002). Tinted spectacles and visually-sensitive migraine. Cephalagia, 22, 711-719. 

 Williams, M.C., Le Cluyse, K., & Littell, R. (1996). A wavelength specific intervention for reading disability. In R.P. Garzia & R. London (Eds.), Vision and Reading. St Louis: Mosby.  


This information is presented with permission and provided by:

 Associate Professor Greg Robinson, PhD
Special Education Centre
School of Education
Faculty of Education and Arts
University of Newcastle
Phone: +61 (0) 2 4921 6291
Fax: +61 (0) 2 4921 6939

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