Slowed dark adaptation in older eyes; effect of location

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The rate of rod sensitivity recovery following a photobleach is a basic measure of the integrity of the outer retina. Rods are selectively impaired in aging and many disorders of the retina, notably Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). It is not known for certain whether the age-related deficit is a pan-retinal effect or if there are localised regions of impaired rod function. To address this important issue a dual arc stimulus was developed that samples sensitivity recovery in two retinal locations.


Arc-shaped stimuli were presented on a black CRT screen at two locations, in the inferior visual field. Following a bleach, which was localised to the stimuli, recovery of sensitivity was measured using a modified method of adjustment technique. Neutral density filters were used to extend the luminance range of the CRT. Sensitivity recovery functions were fitted by non-linear regression to a seven-parameter model.


Pairs of sensitivity recovery functions were generated from the stimuli. The cone phases of these functions were identical. The slopes of the S2 sections of the curves were steeper for the outer stimuli for both young (p < 0.001) and older (p = 0.003) observers. The difference between the two was the same for the two groups. The α point was reached slightly earlier for the young observers and with the outer stimulus but neither of these effects reached statistical significance. The β point occurred earlier for the outer stimuli and this effect was statistically significant only for the older group.


The method places minimal demands on observers. The fact that rod sensitivity recovery is slowed in the older normal eye to the same extent in the two locations suggests that this deficit may be uniform across the retina. As there are localised losses in scotopic function in AMD, the technique is ideally suited to distinguishing impaired recovery dynamics due to normal ageing from those caused by disease.

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