Rapid method for assessing rod function using recovery of spatial contrast thresholds following a bleach

M C Puell, J M Kelly, I J Murray

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Poor vision in low light is a common complaint of elderly people. This poorly understood phenomenon is likely to involve both receptoral and post receptoral mechanisms. We investigated the recovery of contrast thresholds for sine-wave gratings of low spatial frequencies and low mean luminance as a function of time in darkness after photo pigment bleaching. Thirteen subjects aged 30.4 (+/-10.7) years took part in the study. Contrast thresholds were measured for 15 min following almost complete photo pigment bleaching. The stimuli were achromatic sinusoidal gratings of 0.5, 1 and 2 cycle per degree (cpd) generated on a CRT monitor. They had mean luminance 0.01 cd m(-2) and subtended 10 degrees in diameter. The dynamics of the recovery at each spatial frequency were modelled using monophasic and biphasic exponential decay functions. The data were best modelled by a bi-phasic decay with a distinct transition point around 7 min after the bleach. Both phases followed an exponential decay. The time constant (mean, standard error) for the first phase was 0.35 (0.04) min while for the second phase it was 5.15 (0.27) min. This difference was statistically significant (p <0.001). A control experiment revealed the second, slower phase was mediated by rod photoreceptors. Maximum contrast sensitivity was reached 15 min after a photic bleach. The dynamics of contrast sensitivity recovery follow two phases and these may be attributed to the cone and rod systems.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)256-61
    Number of pages194
    JournalExp Eye Res
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    • Adult
    • Contrast Sensitivity/*physiology
    • Dark Adaptation/*physiology
    • Female
    • Humans
    • Male
    • Middle Aged
    • Photic Stimulation
    • Recovery of Function/physiology
    • Retinal Rod Photoreceptor Cells/*physiology
    • Sensory Thresholds/*physiology


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