[OPTICAL REVIEW Vol. 11, No. 4 (2004) 226-234]
© 2004 The Optical Society of Japan

Chromatic-Spatial Vision of the Aging Eye

John S. WERNER*, Peter B. DELAHUNT and Joseph L. HARDY

Department of Ophthalmology and Section of Neurobiology, Physiology & Behavior, University of California, Davis, 4860 Y Street, Suite 2400, Sacramento, CA 95817, U.S.A.

(Received April 5, 2004; Accepted May 10, 2004)

The human visual system undergoes continuous anatomical, physiological and functional changes throughout the life span. There is also continuous change in the spectral distribution and intensity of light reaching the retina from infancy through senescence, primarily due to changes in the absorption of short-wave light by the lens. Despite these changes in the retinal stimulus and the signals leaving the retina for perceptual analysis, color appearance is relatively stable during aging as measured by broadband reflective or self-luminous samples, the wavelengths of unique blue and yellow, and the achromatic locus. Measures of ocular media density for younger and older observers show, indeed, that color appearance is independent of ocular media density. This may be explained by a renormalization process that was demonstrated by measuring the chromaticity of the achromatic point before and after cataract surgery. There was a shift following cataract surgery (removal of a brunescent lens) that was initially toward yellow in color space, but over the course of months, drifted back in the direction of the achromatic point before surgery. The spatial characteristics of color mechanisms were quantified for younger and older observers in terms of chromatic perceptive fields and the chromatic contrast sensitivity functions. Younger and older observers differed with small spots or with chromatic spatial gratings near threshold, but there were no significant differences with larger spots or suprathreshold spatial gratings.

Key words: color appearance, aging, photoreceptors, chromatic contrast sensitivity, ocular media, white point

*E-mail address: jswerner@ucdavis.edu