Russell L. Woods, Ph.D.

Harvard Medical School

Associate Professor of Ophthalmology

Schepens Eye Research Institute of Massachusetts Eye and Ear

Associate Scientist

Research Summary

Center/Research Area Affiliations


Dr. Woods' research primarily focuses on vision impairment and rehabilitation. He is developing and evaluating methods to modify the appearance of video from television, movies, and other formats. He also seeks to understand the visual input to pedestrian mobility and evaluates devices that help restore mobility that is lost due to vision impairment. Recent novel methods include improvements to gaze-contingent display systems and a method to assess the acquisition of sensory information (e.g., can you understand what you see?). Currently, he is developing a method to measure cognitive impairments and testing a novel method of treating visuo-spatial neglect.

Download his CV [PDF] for more information.


BOptom (with honors), University of New South Wales, Australia (1980)
MCOptom, College of Optometrists, UK (1991)
PhD, Visual Science, The City University, UK (1992)

Postgraduate Training

Postdoctoral Fellow (vision science), Queensland University of Technology (1992-1995)
Research Fellow (vision science), Glasgow Caledonian University (1996)
Research Associate (vision rehabilitation), Schepens Eye Research Institute of Mass. Eye and Ear (1999-2001)


Research Interests

  • Vision impairment and rehabilitation

Vision Impairment

Central vision impairment is the most common vision impairment in developed countries due to the prevalence of age-related macular degeneration. It causes problems with reading, facial recognition, and watching television. Dr. Woods has investigated factors that may impair reading performance, and he has evaluated the potential benefits of electronically displayed reading material. Video (digital moving images)—whether from the television, computer, or mobile device—are a common source of entertainment and information. Therefore, Dr. Woods is evaluating methods to modify the appearance of videos in the hope that it will help people with vision impairments.

Restriction of the visual fields (extent of vision) is the major factor that causes reduced mobility among people with visual impairments. If you have no visual field (blind) or a severely restricted visual field ("tunnel vision"), then orientation and mobility is not easy. However, it is not clear whether all parts of the visual field contribute equally to our ability to move safely and efficiently through the environment, nor at what level of deficit people would benefit from rehabilitation (e.g., orientation and mobility training). Therefore, Dr. Woods conducts studies to understand the visual input to mobility. In addition, devices that restore lost vision are evaluated. Mobility studies include assessments of basic vision (i.e., how the visual system works), how people move through the real world and through virtual worlds (e.g., a simulated shopping mall), and how that relates to quality of life.

Helping Clinician Use and Evaluate Tests

Dr. Woods has shown how a simple clinical measurement of contrast sensitivity (the ability to detect objects of low contrast) can be used as a screening test for ocular disease among older people. Clinical grading allows clinicians to compare the status of one patient between practitioners and across time with greater precision than the use of descriptive words, such as "slight" or "severe." Dr. Woods proposed a numeric system that could be used across a wide variety of clinical conditions and appearances. Since then, he has evaluated the use of these grading scales in a series of small studies.

Current Research Funding

NIH/National Eye Institute EY027882
Impact of peripheral islands in the visual field on functional ability in patients with retinitis pigmentosa



29 (Google Scholar, as of May 2017)

Selected Publications

Dr. Woods has published more than 70 peer-reviewed articles and 20 peer-reviewed conference proceedings. Below is a list of selected publications. View his publications on PubMed.

  1. Saunders DR, Bex PJ, Rose DJ, Woods RL. Measuring information acquisition from sensory input using automated scoring of natural-language descriptions. PLoS One. 2014;9(4): e93251.
  2. Delori F, Greenberg J, Woods RL, Fisher J, Duncker T, Sparrow J, Smith RT. Quantitative measurements of autofluorescence with the scanning laser ophthalmoscope. Invest Ophthalmol Visual Sci. 2011;52(13): 9379-9390.
  3. Lovie-Kitchin JE, Soong GP, Hassan SE, Woods RL. Visual field size criteria for mobility rehabilitation referral. Optom Vision Sci. 2010;87(12): E948-E957.
  4. Hassan SE, Lovie-Kitchin JE, Woods RL. Vision and mobility performance of subjects with age-related macular degeneration. Optom Vision Sci. 2001;79(11): 697-707.
  5. Woods RL, Bradley A, Atchison DA. Monocular diplopia caused by ocular aberrations and hyperopic defocus. Vision Res. 1996;36(22): 3597-3606.