Measuring contrast sensitivity under different lighting conditions: comparison of three tests

Optom Vis Sci. 2006 May;83(5):290-8. doi: 10.1097/01.opx.0000216100.93302.2d.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to evaluate three psychophysical tests for the measurement of contrast sensitivity (CS) and disability glare (DG) at different luminance levels.

Methods: In 60 eyes of 60 individuals (group 1: 20 healthy eyes of young individuals; group 2: 20 healthy eyes of elderly subjects; group 3: 20 eyes with nuclear cataract), CS with best correction was measured twice with the Frankfurt-Freiburg Contrast and Acuity Test System (FF-CATS) and the Functional Acuity Contrast Test (FACT, 1.5 cycles per degree [cpd]) at 167 cd/m2 and 0.167 cd/m2, and with the Pelli-Robson Chart (PRC) at 100 cd/m2 with and without glare. Repeatability of test and retest, and discriminative ability between the different subgroups, were assessed for CS values.

Results: Maximum CS values varied across tests. In all groups, highest CS values were obtained with the photopic FF-CATS. For FACT scores at 1.5 cpd, there was a ceiling effect for young subjects. CS scores obtained with the PRC were the lowest. The PRC had the best test-retest repeatability of all tests. Under mesopic conditions with glare, reliability was generally lower; the FF-CATS had the highest repeatability of the mesopic tests. The FF-CATS discriminated best between the different groups for all conditions.

Conclusions: There are large discrepancies in the test results between CS testing methods, especially under different lighting conditions. Results from different CS tests are not interchangeable.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology
  • Contrast Sensitivity / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Female
  • Glare
  • Humans
  • Light*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reference Values
  • Vision Tests / methods*