Friday, 20 May 2016 17:35



While much of the early literature was unpublished and of poor scientific design, there are now numerous controlled studies which have reported positive results for the use of coloured lenses. These studies have all been reported in peer reviewed journals, using reviewers with expertise in this field, who are unlikely to recommend the publication of studies which are methodologically unsound. I have listed these studies below, with their full references attached. The largest number of controlled studies report improvement in reading when using coloured plastic overlays, coloured computer monitors, and one study which illuminates 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; Kriss & Evans, 2005; Noble, Orton, Irlen, & Robinson, 2004; Northway, 2003; Ray, Fowler, & Stein, 2005; Scott, McWhinnie, Taylor, Stevenson, Irons, & Lewis, 2002; Singleton & Trotter, 2005; Solan, Brannan, Ficarra, & Byrne, 1997; Solan, Ficarra, Brannan, & Rucker, 1998; Tyrrell, Holland, Dennis, & Wilkins, 1995; Wilkins, Jeanes, Pumfrey, & Laskier, 1996; Wilkins & Lewis, 1999; Wilkins, Lewis, Smith, Rowland, & Tweedie, 2001; Williams, Le Cluyse, & Littell, 1996). There are also numerous 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, 1993; Wilkins, Patel, Adjamian, & Evans, 2002). In particular, the paper by Chase et al. (2003), describes a series of four studies which found that the accuracy of oral reading was poorer when using red filters in comparison to blue and green filters. These results were used to support physiological evidence that red light suppresses functioning of the Magnocellular visual neural pathway, with reading being better when longer wavelengths of light (red) are removed from the light source by the use of blue filters. A number of these studies have used placebo controls (Bouldoukian et al., 2002; Evans & Joseph, 2002; Jeanes et al., 1997; Ray et al., 2005; Robinson & Foreman, 1999; Wilkins, Evans, Brown, Busby, Wingfield, Jeanes, & Bald, 1994; Wilkins & Lewis, 1999; Wilkins et al., 2002). Such placebo studies are possible because the effects of coloured filters can be assessed without subjects being aware of the precise chromacity of the colour which provides optimal results for them(Wilkins, Huang, & Cao, 2004). In addition, people who respond to the use of colour are also likely to have abnormalities in accommodation (Simmers, Gray, & Wilkins, 2001), significant changes in visual evoked potentials when using coloured filters (Huang, Cooper, Satana, Kaufman, & Cao, 2003; Riddell, Wilkins, Zemori, Gordon, & Hainline, 1998) as well as differences in biochemical profiles (Robinson, Roberts, McGregor, Dunstan, & Butt, 2001; Sparkes, Robinson, Dunstan, & Roberts, 2003; Sparkes, Robinson, Roberts, & Dunstan, 2006), all of which could not be attributed to placebo effects.



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.

Huang, J., Cooper, T. G., Satana, D. Kaufman, D. L., & Cao, Y. (2003). Visual distortion provoked by a stimulus in migraine associated with hyperneural activity. Headache, 43, 664-671.

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.

Kriss, I., & Evans,  B. J. W. (2005). The relationship between dyslexia and Meares-Irlen Syndrome. Journal of Research in Reading, 28(3), 350-364.

Kyd, L. J. C., Sutherland, G. F. M., & McGettrick, P. M. (1992). A preliminary appraisal of the Irlen screening process for scotopic sensitivity syndrome and the effect of Irlen coloured overlays on reading. The British Orthoptic Journal, 49, 24-30.

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.

Ray, N. J., Fowler, S., & Stein, J. F. (2005). Yellow filters can improve magnocellular function: Motion sensitivity, convergence, accommodation and reading. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1039, 283-293.

Riddell, P. M., Wilkins, A. J., Zemori, V., Gordon, J., & Hainline, J. (1998). The effects of coloured lenses on visual evoked response in photophobic children. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (Abstract), 39 (Suppl.), pp. 181.

Robinson, G. L.,  & Conway, R. N. F. (1994). Irlen filters and reading strategies: Effects of coloured filters on reading achievement, specific reading strategies and perception of ability. Perceptual & Motor Skills, 79, 467-483.

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.

Robinson, G. L., McGregor, N. R., Roberts, T. K., Dunstan, R. H., & Butt, H. (2001). A biochemical analysis of people with chronic fatigue who have Irlen Syndrome: Speculation concerning immune system dysfunction. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 93, 486-504.

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.

Simmers, A. J., Gray, L. S., & Wilkins, A. J. (2001). The influence of tinted lenses upon ocular accommodation. Vision Research, 41, 1229-1238.

Singleton, C., & Trotter, S. (2005). Visual stress in adults with and without dyslexia. Journal of Research in Reading, 28(3), 365-379.

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.

Sparkes, D. L., Robinson, G. L., Dunstan, H., & Roberts, T. K. (2003). Plasma cholesterol levels and Irlen Syndrome: Preliminary study of 10- to 17-year-old students. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 97, 743-758.

Sparkes, D. L., Robinson, G. L., Roberts, T. K., & Dunstan, H. (2006). General health and associated biochemistry in a visual-perceptual subtype of dyslexia. In F. Columbus (Ed.), Learning Disabilities: New Research. NY: Nova Science Publications.

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. (1993). Reading and visual discomfort. In D. M. Willows, R. S. Kruk, & E. Corcos (Eds.), Visual processes in reading and reading disabilities. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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., Jeanes, R. J., Pumfrey, P. D., & Laskier, M. (1996). Rate of reading test: Its reliability and its validity in the assessment of the effects of coloured overlays. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 16, 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.

Compiled by the late Dr Greg Robinson. Associate Professor Special Education

The University of Newcastle NSW Australia



  1. A Functional neuroimaging case study of Meares-Irlen syndrome/visual stress (MISViS). Chouinard BD, Zhou CI, Hrybouski S, Kim ES, Cummine J.

            Brain Topogr. 2012 Jul;25(3):293-307.


  1. Screening for dyslexia, dyspraxia and Meares-Irlen syndrome in higher education. Nichols SA, McLeod JS, Holder RL, McLeod HS

    Dyslexia 2009 Feb;15(1):42-60.

  2. Meares-Irlen syndrome – a need for increasing awareness in the general public. Kapoor S.

    Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 2008 May;28(3):291

  3. The effect of coloured filters on the rate of reading in an adult student population. Evans BJ, Joseph F.

            Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 2002 Nov;22(6):535-45


  1. A preliminary investigation into the aetiology of Meares-Irlen syndrome.

    Evans BJ, Wilkins AJ, Brown J, Busby A, Wingfield A, Jeanes R, Bald J.

            Ophthalmic Physiol Opt 1996 Jul;16(4): 286-96


  1. Visual Perceptual Difficulties and the impact on children’s learning: Are teachers missing the page? Christopher Boyle, Divya Jindal-Snape

    British Journal of Support for Learning 2012 27(4) 166-171

  2. Colors, colored overlays, and reading skills. Arcangelo Uccula, Mauro Enna, Claudio Mulatti

    Front Psychol. 2014; 5:833

  3. A comparison of two-coloured filter systems for treating visual rading difficulties. Roger Hall, Micola Ray, Priscilla Harries, John Stein

    Disabil Rehabil 2013 Dec; 35(26): 2221-2226

  4. The Educational Challenge of Irlen Syndrome Siegfried Othmer, PhD

    EEG Info Newsletter – Articles and Discussion on Neurofeedback and Biofeedback

  5. Treating reading difficulties with colour. Lisa M Henderson, Robert H Taylor, Brendan Barrett, Philip G Griffiths.

    BMJ 2014; 349:g5160

  6. Coloured Filters Enhance the Visual Perception of Social Cues in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Amanda K Ludlow, Elaine Taylor-Whiffen, Arnold J Wilkins.

            ISRN Neurol. 2012; 2012:298098

  1. A placebo-controlled trial of tinted lenses in adolescents with good and poor academic performance: reading accuracy and speed. Genis Cardona, Rosa Boras, Elvira Peris, Marina Castane.

    J Optom. 2010;3(2):94-101

  2. Specific Visual Symptoms and Signs of Meares-Irlen Syndrome in Korean

    Minwook Chang, Seung-Hyun Kim, Joo-Young Kim, Yoonae A Cho

    Korean J Ophthalmol 2014; 28(2): 159-163

  3. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Findings in Meares-Irlen Syndrome: A Pilot Study. Ji Hyun Kim, Hye-Jin Seo, Suk-Gyu Ha, Seung-Hyun Kim

            Korean J Ophthalmol 2015; 29(2): 121-125


  1. Using coloured filters to reduce the symptoms of visual stress in children with reading delay. Harries P, Hall R, Ray N, Stein J.

    Scand J Occup Ther 2015 Mar;22(2): 153-60

  2. Levels of visual stress in Proficient Readers: Effects of Spectral Filtering of Fluorescent Lighting on Reading Discomfort.   Loew SJ, Rodriguez C, Marsh NV, Jones GL, Munez JC, Watson K.

    Span J Psychol 2015 Aug 10; 18:E58


  1. A Prospective Genetic Marker of the visual-perception disorder Meares-Irlen syndrome. Loew SJ, Watson K.

    Percept Mot Skills. 2012 Jun;114(3): 870-82


       1.  A girl with dyslexia suspected to have Irlen syndrome, completely relieved by wearing tinted lenses.

            No To Hattatsu. 2015 Nov;47(6):445-8














Published in Resources
Wednesday, 26 March 2014 09:49

Reading Difficulties Newcastle

I saw a little person today who reported that the words on the page went up and down like waves. This can make it really difficult to read efficiently. For some people, this "waving" motion can be flat on the page, or it can even be "lifting off the page" in an upwards motion. For some, this causes nausea when looking at the words. Unfortunately, children don't understand that other people don't see the words like this, and can often be in trouble because their parents and teachers don't know what the words look like for them. If you have a situation in your own home or if you know of other situations where parents are getting frustrated with their child's apparent reluctance to read, please check with the child about how the words look for them or ask them is it hard to see the words? If they say yes, ask them why is it hard? With any luck, they may be able to verbalise the problem and this may help the parent to understand.

Published in Dr Joan Brien
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 09:44

Reading Difficulties Newcastle

I was contacted by a parent today who had been referred to our clinic by an optometrist! Hallelujah! All too often, children are taken to optometrists because they are having problems with reading, and more often than not, end up with prescription lenses because the optometrist is doing what they can to help the child to read better. However, a number of those children still end up being diagnosed with Irlen Syndrome because their reading problems are actually not the result of a vision problem. Another thing that happens occasionally is that a parent will take their child to the optometrist to have their eyes checked before coming to our Clinic to be assessed for Irlen. When they mention to the optometrist that they are coming to be assessed for Irlen Syndrome, they are advised to "wait a few months to see if the problems go away with the optometric lenses". I find this frustrating because these parents have usually told us that their children have words moving or fading and we know that their new "reading glasses" will not stop these symptoms, and it means that the child is going to continue to flounder at school for another "few months" and get further and further behind. If this happens to you or any of your friends, and you have the opportunity to pass on some information, please let them know that an optometrist cannot diagnose dyslexia or Irlen Syndrome and that, even though their child may have a vision problem that is detected by the optometrist, if they also have symptoms of Irlen, then they should proceed with the assessment at an Irlen Clinic, because prescription lenses can be tinted so that both problems are corrected.

Published in Dr Joan Brien