Purpose: Reduced retinal image contrast produced by accommodative lag is implicated with myopia development. Here, we measure accommodative error and retinal image quality from wavefront aberrations in myopes and emmetropes when they perform visually demanding and naturalistic tasks.
Methods: Wavefront aberrations were measured in 10 emmetropic and 11 myopic adults at three distances (100, 40, and 20 cm) while performing four tasks (monocular acuity, binocular acuity, reading, and movie watching). For the acuity tasks, measurements of wavefront error were obtained near the end point of the acuity experiment. Refractive state was defined as the target vergence that optimizes image quality using a visual contrast metric (VSMTF) computed from wavefront errors.
Results: Accommodation was most accurate (and image quality best) during binocular acuity whereas accommodation was least accurate (and image quality worst) while watching a movie. When viewing distance was reduced, accommodative lag increased and image quality (as quantified by VSMTF) declined for all tasks in both refractive groups. For any given viewing distance, computed image quality was consistently worse in myopes than in emmetropes, more so for the acuity than for reading/movie watching. Although myopes showed greater lags and worse image quality for the acuity experiments compared to emmetropes, acuity was not measurably worse in myopes compared to emmetropes.
Conclusions: Retinal image quality present when performing a visually demanding task (e.g., during clinical examination) is likely to be greater than for less demanding tasks (e.g., reading/movie watching). Although reductions in image quality lead to reductions in acuity, the image quality metric VSMTF is not necessarily an absolute indicator of visual performance because myopes achieved slightly better acuity than emmetropes despite showing greater lags and worse image quality. Reduced visual contrast in myopes compared to emmetropes is consistent with theories of myopia progression that point to image contrast as an inhibitory signal for ocular growth.