The effect of age on normal human optic nerve fiber number and diameter

Ophthalmology. 1989 Jan;96(1):26-32. doi: 10.1016/s0161-6420(89)32928-9.


In one optic nerve from each of 19 persons, the authors determined the number of axons, the distribution of fiber diameter, and the total neural area. The mean fiber count was 693,316, the mean neural area was 5.17 mm2, and the mean axonal fiber diameter was 0.96 microns. No significant decline in fiber number or neural area with increasing age was found. The authors found a large variability of axonal number among their patients. This variability would have obscured any small effect of aging. Linear regression analysis of the effect of age on mean axonal diameter yielded a slight negative slope (P less than 0.01), suggesting a redistribution of fiber diameter. This could occur from axonal shrinkage, from preferential large fiber loss, or from the technical features of tissue acquisition and analysis. The authors suspect that the explanation is a selective loss of large nerve fibers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Fibers / anatomy & histology*
  • Nerve Fibers / ultrastructure
  • Optic Nerve / anatomy & histology*
  • Optic Nerve / ultrastructure
  • Reference Values
  • Regression Analysis