The sensitivity of short-wavelength-sensitive (SWS) cone pathways throughout the central 30-deg visual field was determined in both eyes of 62 normal volunteers between the ages of 20 and 72 years. We found an average SWS cone pathway sensitivity decrease with age of ~0.15 log unit per decade. The sensitivity reduction was approximately linear, with a slightly larger decrease beyond the age of 50 years. The age-related SWS cone pathway sensitivity reductions also became larger as a function of increasing stimulus eccentricity. Measurements of ocular-media absorption characteristics in each eye revealed that 30–40% of the age-related sensitivity loss could be attributed to reductions in transmission of short-wavelength light by the ocular media. After corrections for preretinal media transmission loss, the decrease in the sensitivity of SWS cone pathways with age was ~0.09 log unit per decade. This age-related loss is greater than age-related sensitivity decreases in the middle-wavelength-sensitive and/or long-wavelength-sensitive cones (appoximately 0.06 to 0.07 log unit per decade). In the age group older than 60 years, there was an inverse relationship between media-corrected SWS cone pathway sensitivity and media absorption characteristics (i.e., media-corrected SWS cone pathway sensitivity was higher in eyes with lower media transmission of short wavelengths). This relationship was not so evident for younger subjects. A similar inverse relationship between transmission loss in the ocular media and SWS cone pathway sensitivity was found between left and right eyes of the same individual. These findings raise the possibility that reductions in short-wavelength transmission by the ocular media may have a long-term protective effect against light-induced damage to SWS cone pathways.
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