Differential changes in retina function with normal aging in humans

Doc Ophthalmol. 2011 Jun;122(3):177-90. doi: 10.1007/s10633-011-9273-2. Epub 2011 May 12.


We evaluated the full field electroretinogram (ERG) to assess age-related changes in retina function in humans. ERG recordings were performed on healthy subjects with normal fundus appearance, lack of cataract and 20/20 acuity, aged 20-39 years (n = 27; mean age 25 ± 5, standard deviation), 40-59 years (n = 20; mean 53 ± 5), and 60-82 years (n = 18; mean 69 ± 5). Multiple ERG tests were applied, including light and dark-adapted stimulus-response function, dark adaptation and dynamic of recovery from a single bright flash under dark-adapted conditions. Changes in ERG properties were found in the oldest age group when compared with the two younger age groups. (1) The photopic hill effect was less pronounced. (2) Both photopic a-wave and b-wave amplitudes and implicit times were increased at high stimulus strengths. (3) Dark adaptation time was delayed for pure rod and L/M cone-driven responses, respectively. (4) Dark-adapted a-wave but not b-wave amplitudes were reduced, yielding higher B/A ratios. (5) Dark-adapted a- and b-waves implicit times were prolonged: there was a direct proportional correlation between minimal a-wave implicit times and age. (6) The dynamic of dark current recovery from a bright flash, under dark-adapted conditions, was transiently faster at intervals between 0.9 and 2 s. These results denote that aging of the healthy retina is accompanied by specific functional changes, which must be taken into account to optimally diagnose potential pathologies.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Ocular
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Color Vision / physiology
  • Dark Adaptation
  • Electroretinography / methods*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reference Values
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult