Effect of Defocus on Visual Acuity As Measured by Source and Observer Methods

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The relation between refractive error and visual acuity has been measured by two very different methods. In one called “source methods,” emmetropes or corrected ametropes view defocused stimuli presented on projection screens or photographs. In the type called “observer methods,” focused stimuli are presented to the observers who are either uncorrected ametropes or emmetropes defocused by lenses placed (usually), in the spectacle plane. The study reported in this paper demonstrates for the first time that these two methods of defocusing retinal images and their effects on visual acuity can be correlated. Results show that the source method of producing defocus could be used interchangeably with the observer method in investigating the rates of change of visual acuity with defocus for young normal observers. The angular diameter of the defocused image of a point, the blur disc diameter in object space, allows the two methods to be compared. Although the results show that the two methods are highly correlated, they show that the source method gives a statistically but not clinically significant lower acuity. The results of both methods are used to derive an equation linking refractive error, visual acuity, and pupil diameter.

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