Rod light and dark adaptation influence cone-mediated spatial acuity

Vision Res. 1988;28(1):67-74.


The influence of rod light and dark adaptation upon cone mediated spatial acuity was studied in the near parafoveal retina of normal human observers. The luminance just necessary to detect squarewave test gratings of variable frequency provided an index of spatial acuity. Such thresholds were determined in the presence of background fields which were varied in luminance, shape, and size, or throughout the time period of dark adaptation. Spectral controls determined the type of photoreceptors influenced by all stimuli. Cone mediated spatial acuity is improved by presenting background fields too dim to directly affect cones, and is increasingly suppressed during the rod recovery stage of dark adaptation. These effects are small with spatial frequencies less than 4 c/deg but increase with spatial frequency to greater than 1 log10 unit with the highest spatial frequency examined, 21 c/deg. These influences upon cone mediated spatial vision reflect the state of long-term adaptation of rods in a large annular area surrounding the locus to which the test grating is presented. Our results emphasize the differing influences of long-term dark adaptation and prevailing luminance level upon visual acuity. Ironically, spatial acuity is optimized under dim light conditions by selectively light adapting the receptors most sensitive to feeble stimuli, the rods.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Ocular*
  • Dark Adaptation
  • Female
  • Form Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Light
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photometry
  • Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Visual Acuity