Just out: Binocular function in the aging visual system: fusion, suppression, and stereoacuity

We have just published a study in Frontiers in Neuroscience looking at how the relationship between different measures of binocular function changes with aging.

Introduction: Changes in vision that occur in normal healthy aging can be seen in fundamental measures of monocular vision. However, the nature of the changes in binocular vision with age remain unclear.

Methods: A total of 28 older (53–66 years) and 28 younger adults (20–31 years) were enrolled in this study. We performed a battery of tests to assess differences in monocular contrast thresholds and various binocular visual functions including dichoptic masking weight and strength, the binocular balance point for fused stimuli, and stereoacuity in the aging and control groups.

Results: Aging significantly increased monocular contrast thresholds (p < 0.001). Although this suggests that aging reduces the effective “input gain” to vision, we also found a significantly elevated contribution of those weaker signals to interocular suppression (p < 0.001). Consequently, there was no significant net difference in the strength of interocular suppression (p = 0.065). We did not find a significant difference of absolute balance point between the two groups (p = 0.090). Lastly, the mean stereoacuity was worse in the older group compared to the younger group (p = 0.002).

Discussion: Our findings confirm previous results showing differences in contrast sensitivity and stereoacuity with aging. Furthermore, we find a change in interocular suppression that is a possible consequence of the change in contrast sensitivity. It is suggestive of a cortical system that maintains a homeostatic balance in interocular suppression across the lifespan.