Abstract

The relative contributions of optical and neural factors to the decrease in visual function with aging were investigated by measurement of contrast detection at three different spatial frequencies, in the presence of external noise, on young and older subjects. Contrast detection in noise functions allows two parameters to be measured: sampling efficiency, which indicates neural changes, and equivalent noise, which demonstrates optical effects. Contrast thresholds were measured in the presence of four levels (including zero) of externally added visual noise. Measurements were obtained from eight young and eight older visually normal observers. Compared with young subjects, older subjects showed significantly (p<0.05) lower sampling efficiencies at spatial frequencies of 1 and 4 cycles per degree (c/deg) and significantly higher equivalent noise levels for gratings of 10 c/deg. Neural and optical factors affect contrast sensitivity loss with aging differently, depending on the spatial frequency tested, implying the existence of different mechanisms.

© 2004 Optical Society of America

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