Purpose: To develop a simple, rapid method of quantifying the spatial vision of mice.
Methods: A rotating cylinder covered with a vertical sine wave grating was calculated and drawn in virtual three-dimensional (3-D) space on four computer monitors facing to form a square. C57BL/6 mice standing unrestrained on a platform in the center of the square tracked the grating with reflexive head and neck movements. The spatial frequency of the grating was clamped at the viewing position by repeatedly recentering the cylinder on the head. Acuity was quantified by increasing the spatial frequency of the grating until an optomotor response could not be elicited. Contrast sensitivity was measured at spatial frequencies between 0.03 and 0.35 cyc/deg.
Results: Grating acuity was measurable on the day of eye opening (postnatal day [P]15: mean acuity, 0.031 cyc/deg) and reached a maximum (approximately 0.4 cyc/deg) by P24. A peak in the contrast sensitivity function emerged on P16 (4.7, or 21% contrast at 0.064 cyc/deg). The peak remained at 0.064 cyc/deg and climbed to a maximum sensitivity of 24.5, or 4% contrast, by P29. Acuity was obtained in each mouse in <10 minutes, and a detailed contrast sensitivity curve was generated in approximately 30 minutes.
Conclusions: The virtual optomotor system provides a simple and precise method for rapidly quantifying mouse vision. Behavioral measures of vision in mice are essential for interpreting the results of experiments designed to reveal the cellular and molecular mechanisms of vision and visual development and for evaluating potential treatments for visual diseases.