Abstract

Purpose: The aim of this work was to examine the impact of Seidel spherical aberration (SA) on optimum refractive state for detecting and discriminating small bright lights on a dark background. Methods: An adaptive-optics system was used to correct ocular aberrations of cyclopleged eyes and then systematically introduce five levels of Seidel SA for a 7-mm diameter pupil: 0, ± 0.18, and ± 0.36 diopters (D) mm$^{−2}$. For each level of SA, subjects were required to detect one or resolve two points of light (0.54 arc min diameter) on a dark background. Refractive error was measured by adjusting stimulus vergence to minimize detection and resolution thresholds. Two other novel focusing tasks for single points of light required maximizing the perceived intensity of a bright point's core and minimizing its overall perceived size (i.e. minimize starburst artifacts). Except for the detection task, luminance of the point of light was 1000 cd m$^{−2}$ on a black background lower than 0.5 cd m$^{−2}$. Results Positive SA introduced myopic shifts relative to the best subjective focus for dark letters on a bright background when there was no SA, whereas negative SA introduced hyperopic shifts in optimal focus. The changes in optimal focus were −1.7, −2.4, −2.0, and −9.2 D of focus per D mm$^{−2}$ of SA for the detection task, resolution task, and maximization of core's intensity and minimization of size, respectively. Conclusion Ocular SA can be a significant contributor to changes in refractive state when viewing high-contrast point sources typically encountered in nighttime environments.

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