A role for the macular carotenoids in visual motor response

Nutr Neurosci. 2013 Nov;16(6):262-8. doi: 10.1179/1476830513Y.0000000054.


Objectives: Lutein (L), zeaxanthin (Z), and meso-zeaxanthin are the dominant carotenoids within the central retina (there, termed macular pigment, MP). L is also the dominant carotenoid in the brain. The presence of L and Z in both motor and visual areas of the central nervous system is consistent with a role of these carotenoids in visual-motor behavior. The purpose of this study was to provide a first test of this hypothesis.

Methods: Balance ability (measured via the Standing Leg Test) and simple reaction time (measured via a stimulus appearing in one of four quadrants of a computer monitor) were measured in 49 subjects (mean age = 54.8 years). Fixed and variable reaction time, and coincidence anticipation ability (estimating the arrival of the stimulus at a target location moving at four velocities) were assessed in 106 younger subjects (mean age = 23 years) using a customized device. MP optical density was measured in all subjects via customized heterochromatic flicker photometry.

Results: MP optical density was significantly (P < 0.05) related to reaction time and to balance ability for the older subjects. Even for the younger group, MP optical density was significantly (P < 0.05) related to fixed and variable position reaction time, as well as coincidence anticipation errors, at high speed.

Discussion: L and Z status has been linked to benefits in cognitive function in past research. The present results, and the selective presence of L and Z in visual and motor areas in the brain, are consistent with these carotenoids having a role in visual and motor integration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Anticipation, Psychological
  • Carotenoids / metabolism*
  • Cognition
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lutein / metabolism
  • Macula Lutea / growth & development
  • Macula Lutea / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oculomotor Muscles / growth & development
  • Oculomotor Muscles / metabolism*
  • Postural Balance
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Reaction Time
  • Xanthophylls / metabolism
  • Young Adult
  • Zeaxanthins


  • Xanthophylls
  • Zeaxanthins
  • Carotenoids
  • meso-zeaxanthin
  • Lutein