Short-wavelength-sensitive-cone sensitivity loss with aging: a protective role for macular pigment?

J Opt Soc Am A. 1988 Dec;5(12):2140-4. doi: 10.1364/josaa.5.002140.


The hypothesis was tested that the yellow macular pigment protects the human fovea from retinal neural damage caused by visible-light exposure over a lifetime. The sensitivities of the short-wavelength-sensitive-cone (S-cone) pathways and a long-wavelength-sensitive pathway were assessed across the central retina in a young group (average age, 23 years) and an older group (average age, 67 years) of normal healthy observers. No statistically significant difference was found at any retinal locations between the groups for the measures of long-wavelength sensitivity. However, the older group showed a significant differential loss of S-cone sensitivity across the retina compared with the younger group, with more loss of sensitivity at nonfoveal locations than at the fovea. This differential loss across the retina cannot be accounted for by yellowing of the crystalline lens, since lens effects are present equally at all retinal eccentricities. This result supports the hypothesis that the macular pigment protects the foveal area from light damage.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Light / adverse effects
  • Macula Lutea / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Retinal Pigments / physiology*


  • Retinal Pigments