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Y. Lin, J. Pratt, S. T. L. Chung; Characteristics of Fixation and Pursuit Eye Movements as Assessed Using an SLO in Young and Older Adults. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2007;48(13):5498.
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Little information exists on the comparison of the characteristics of oculomotor behavior between young and older adults. Such information can help us better understand the effect of normal aging on visual performance. The goal of this study was to examine whether or not the characteristics of fixation and smooth pursuit eye movements change with normal aging.
Eight young (mean age = 23.3) and eight older (mean age = 70.8) observers with normal acuity (20/20 or better) and contrast sensitivity participated in this study. The stimulus for the fixation and pursuit tasks was a 1 deg cross, projected on the retina of one eye (randomly selected) of each observer using a Rodenstock scanning laser ophthalmoscope (SLO) that allows us to track accurately how a retinal location changes with time. Observers were asked to maintain fixation on the center of the cross for 30 sec during fixation trials. For pursuit trials, observers were asked to track the cross that moved smoothly at a velocity between 0.5 and 8 deg/s and an amplitude of 12 deg, in the leftward, rightward, upward and downward directions. The retinal image and the position of the cross were recorded digitally at a frame rate of 30 Hz. The coordinates of the retinal location that an observer used to view the cross on each frame were identified.
For all conditions, older observers performed just as well (and sometimes better) as the young observers. For fixation trials, we computed the standard deviation of the coordinates of the retinal locations that were used for fixation, for both the horizontal and vertical directions, and the area over which 68% of the fixation occurred. For pursuit trials, we computed the pursuit gain (eye velocity/target velocity) for each target direction and velocity. Averaged across observers in each group, all of these variables were similar between the two groups (p > 0.1).
Our finding that the characteristics of fixation and pursuit eye movements are similar between young and older adults implies that as long as normal vision is maintained through older age, oculomotor behavior is not compromised by normal aging.
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