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Daphné Silvestre, Angelo Arleo, Rémy Allard; Healthy Aging Impairs Photon Absorption Efficiency of Cones. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2019;60(2):544-551. doi: 10.1167/iovs.18-25598.
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Vision decline with healthy aging is a major public health concern with the unceasing growth of the aged population. In order to prevent or remedy the age-related visual loss, a better understanding of the underlying causes is needed. The current psychophysical study used a novel noise paradigm to investigate the causes of age-related contrast sensitivity loss by estimating the impact of optical factors, absorption rate of photon by photoreceptors, neural noise, and calculation efficiency on contrast sensitivity.
The impact of these factors on contrast sensitivity was assessed by measuring contrast thresholds with and without external noise over a wide range of spatial frequencies (0.5–16 cycles per degree [cyc/deg]) and different luminance intensities for 20 young (mean = 26.5 years, SD = 3.79) and 20 older (mean = 75.9 years, SD = 4.30) adults, all having a good visual acuity (≥6/7.5).
The age-related contrast sensitivity losses were explained by older observers absorbing considerably fewer photons (4×), having more neural noise (1.9×), and a lower processing efficiency (1.4×). The aging effect on optical factors was not significant.
The age-related contrast sensitivity loss was mostly due to less efficient cones absorbing four times fewer photons than young adults. Thus, besides the ocular factors known to be considerably affected with aging, the decline of absorption efficiency of cones is also responsible for a considerable age-related visual decline, especially under dim light.
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