Visual Acuity and Contrast Sensitivity Development in Children: Sweep Visually Evoked Potential and Psychophysics

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PURPOSEThe purpose of this study was to investigate the development of visual acuity (VA) and contrast sensitivity in children as measured with objective (sweep visually evoked potential) and subjective, psychophysical techniques, including signal detection theory (SDT), which attempts to control for differences in criterion or behavior between adults and children. Furthermore, this study examines the possibility of applying SDT methods with children.METHODSVisual acuity and contrast thresholds were measured in 12 children 6 to 7 years old, 10 children 8 to 9 years old, 10 children 10 to 12 years old, and 16 adults. For sweep visually evoked potential measurements, spatial frequency was swept from 1 to 40 cpd to measure VA, and contrast of sine-wave gratings (1 or 8 cpd) was swept from 0.33 to 30% to measure contrast thresholds. For psychophysical measurements, VA and contrast thresholds (1 or 8 cpd) were measured using a temporal two-alternative forced-choice staircase procedure and also with a yes-no SDT procedure. Optotype (logMAR [log of the minimum angle of resolution]) VA was also measured.RESULTSThe results of the various procedures were in agreement showing that there are age-related changes in threshold values and logMAR VA after the age of 6 years and that these visual functions do not become adult-like until the age of 8 to 9 years at the earliest. It was also found that children can participate in SDT procedures and do show differences in criterion compared with adults in psychophysical testing.CONCLUSIONSThese findings confirm a slightly later development of VA and contrast sensitivity (8 years or older) and indicate the importance of using SDT or forced-choice procedures in any developmental study to attempt to overcome the effect of criterion in children.

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