Axial elongation of the myopic eye has the potential to stretch the retina, thereby reducing the sampling density of retinal neurons. Resolution acuity in the peripheral field of normal eyes is known to be sampling-limited, which suggests that retinal stretching in the myopic eye should have a direct effect on resolution acuity everywhere in the visual field except perhaps the fovea, which is usually optically limited. We tested this prediction that neural sampling density is reduced in myopic eyes by measuring resolution acuity for sinusoidal gratings in the fovea plus five peripheral locations in 60 myopic subjects exhibiting a wide range of refractive errors. Control experiments using a detection paradigm to provoke spatial aliasing verified that peripheral resolution was sampling limited. Retinal spatial frequencies of the grating stimulus were computed assuming Knapps' Law of visual optics, which ensures that retinal image size (in mm) is independent of refractive error when axial myopia is corrected by a spectacle lens located in the anterior focal plane of the eye. Results obtained at every retinal locus showed that resolution acuity declined linearly with magnitude of refractive error. Regression of the population data indicated that approximately 15D of refractive error doubles the spacing between retinal neurons, thereby halving peripheral resolution acuity relative to the emmetropic eye. Several subjects also demonstrated sampling-limited performance in the fovea, which indicated that optical filtering by the eye's optical system failed to protect the fovea from aliasing artifacts of neural undersampling in these eyes. We conclude that stretching of the retina is a primary cause of reduced spatial resolution of the peripheral field, and occasionally of the fovea, in myopic eyes. Stretching appears to be locally uniform over the central ±15°of visual field but is globally non-uniform since the foveal region appears to stretch more than the globe itself.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems