Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the role that abnormal eye movements play in the degradation of visual acuity.
Methods: Visual acuity was measured monocularly in 10 normal subjects (26.7+/-4.3 years) and 5 subjects with congenital nystagmus (34.9+/-8.8 years), using Regan Repeat Letter charts (RRL) and a logMAR based test (LogMAR Crowded Acuity Test (CAT)) while eye movements were continuously recorded using a commercially available infrared limbal eye tracker (Type 54, Optoelectronic Developments, UK). The eye tracker was controlled via a virtual oscilloscope (Viewdac, Keighly Instruments, UK) on an IBM PC clone (Opus Technology 486).
Results: The mean visual acuity obtained with RRL was significantly higher than that obtained by CAT in the subjects with congenital nystagmus. A significant correlation was found between the root mean square value of the nystagmus waveform and the angular extent of CAT. Linear regression analysis revealed a correlation between the duration of the foveation periods and the linear acuity of the subjects with congential nystagmus. The nystagmus waveforms also demonstrated increased amounts of high frequency components (HFC: >3.0 Hz) when compared to the normal eyes.
Conclusions: The results of this study reveal 1) RRL charts provide a measure of a subjects resolution limit which is less dependent on eye movements; 2) the duration of foveation periods has a significant effect on visual acuity measurements obtained using a linear test chart format; 3) the predominance of high frequency components in the congenital nystagmus waveforms lead to short foveation periods adding to the degree of fixation instability.