Purpose. Because vernier acuity seems to be limited by the visual cortex, it possesses excellent potential as a clinical/screening tool to detect amblyopia in infants and toddlers. Thus, we developed the vernier acuity cards specifically for this age group. We compared developmental data gathered using this new test and the Teller Acuity Cards. In addition, we compared the clinical/screening validity of the two tests by testing children old enough to complete optotype acuity testing (6.2 ± 2.5 years).
Methods. Vernier acuity and grating acuity were assessed in 98 children and 18 adults with normal vision (age range = 2.8 months to 35.8 years). The developmental time course of the two visual functions was compared. In addition, vernier acuity and grating acuity were measured in 43 children with amblyopia and 30 nonamblyopic children with an amblyogenic condition. Each child's grating acuity and vernier acuity were classified as normal/abnormal based on age-appropriate norms. These classifications were compared with amblyopia diagnoses by crowded HOTV or Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study (ETDRS) testing.
Results. Vernier acuity and grating acuity follow different developmental time courses in normal infants and children. Vernier acuity is initially poorer than grating acuity but surpasses it by the age 5 years and is adult-like by the age 8 years. Compared with the Teller Acuity Cards, the vernier acuity cards yielded higher sensitivity (81 vs. 44%) and similar specificity (73 vs. 93%) and were more sensitive to all amblyopia subtypes/levels of severity.
Conclusions. The developmental time course of vernier acuity differed from that of grating acuity, implying that it is not mediated by the retina. Also, the impressive validity of the vernier acuity cards suggests that they are an effective tool for detecting amblyopia.