An inability to differentiate letters that are surrounded by other letters and symbols could be one of the brain"s ways of boosting eyesight, it has been claimed.
Researchers working at the University of Gronningen looked at the phenomenon of "crowding", whereby people struggle to pick out individual letters once they are crowded out by other information.
They found that this is a "universal eye problem", shown in both wearers of contact lenses and those with perfect vision, but, far from being a hindrance, it is actually a useful tool in deciphering information.
Indeed, the study found that images shown without crowding were seen by participants to be a little fuzzier than those that were surrounded by letters and symbols, indicating that the brain makes use of crowding to sharpen focus.
"Our eyes are continually being bombarded with information, and our brains have to decide what is important," explained lead researcher Dr Frans Cornelissen.
"Simulations conducted with our model show that crowding appears to help make the important information much clearer."
He added that these findings could form the basis of coming up with a new way of helping people with dyslexia to read.
by Emily Tait