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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cell function in relation to age: A pupillometric study in humans with special reference to the age-related optic properties of the lens

Kristina Herbst1, Birgit Sander1, Henrik Lund-Andersen1, Adam Elias Broendsted1, Line Kessel1, Michael Stormly Hansen1 and Aki Kawasaki23*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Ophthalmology, Glostrup Hospital, Ndr. Ringvej 57, 2600, Glostrup, Copenhagen, Denmark

2 Department of Neuro-ophthalmology, Hôpital Ophtalmique Jules Gonin, Avenue de France 15, Lausanne, 1004, Switzerland

3 Department of Clinical Sciences Ophthalmology, University of Umea, S90185, Umea, Sweden

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BMC Ophthalmology 2012, 12:4  doi:10.1186/1471-2415-12-4

Published: 3 April 2012

Abstract

Background

The activity of melanopsin containing intrinsically photosensitive ganglion retinal cells (ipRGC) can be assessed by a means of pupil responses to bright blue (appr.480 nm) light. Due to age related factors in the eye, particularly, structural changes of the lens, less light reaches retina. The aim of this study was to examine how age and in vivo measured lens transmission of blue light might affect pupil light responses, in particular, mediated by the ipRGC.

Methods

Consensual pupil responses were explored in 44 healthy subjects aged between 26 and 68 years. A pupil response was recorded to a continuous 20 s light stimulus of 660 nm (red) or 470 nm (blue) both at 300 cd/m2 intensity (14.9 and 14.8 log photons/cm2/s, respectively). Additional recordings were performed using four 470 nm stimulus intensities of 3, 30, 100 and 300 cd/m2. The baseline pupil size was measured in darkness and results were adjusted for the baseline pupil and gender. The main outcome parameters were maximal and sustained pupil contraction amplitudes and the postillumination response assessed as area under the curve (AUC) over two time-windows: early (0–10 s after light termination) and late (10–30 s after light termination). Lens transmission was measured with an ocular fluorometer.

Results

The sustained pupil contraction and the early poststimulus AUC correlated positively with age (p = 0.02, p = 0.0014, respectively) for the blue light stimulus condition only.

The maximal pupil contraction amplitude did not correlate to age either for bright blue or red light stimulus conditions.

Lens transmission decreased linearly with age (p < 0.0001). The pupil response was stable or increased with decreasing transmission, though only significantly for the early poststimulus AUC to 300 cd/m2 light (p = 0.02).

Conclusions

Age did not reduce, but rather enhance pupil responses mediated by ipRGC. The age related decrease of blue light transmission led to similar results, however, the effect of age was greater on these pupil responses than that of the lens transmission. Thus there must be other age related factors such as lens scatter and/or adaptive processes influencing the ipRGC mediated pupil response enhancement observed with advancing age.