Haidinger’s brushes elicited at varying degrees of polarization rapidly and easily assesses total macular pigmentation

Shelby E. Temple, Nicholas W. Roberts, Gary P. Misson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Macular pigments (MPs), by absorbing potentially toxic short-wavelength (400–500 nm) visible light, provide protection against photo-chemical damage thought to be relevant in the pathogenesis of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). A method of screening for low levels of MPs could be part of a prevention strategy for helping people to delay the onset of AMD. We introduce a new method for assessing MP density that takes advantage of the polarization-dependent absorption of blue light by MPs, which results in the entoptic phenomenon called Haidinger’s brushes (HB). Subjects were asked to identify the direction of rotation of HB when presented with a circular stimulus illuminated with an even intensity of polarized white light in which the electric field vector was rotating either clockwise or anti-clockwise. By reducing the degree of polarization of the stimulus light, a threshold for perceiving HB (degree of polarization threshold) was determined and correlated (r2=0.66) to macular pigment optical density assessed using dual-wavelength fundus autofluoresence. The speed and ease of measurement of degree of polarization threshold makes it well suited for large-scale screening of macular pigmentation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)B123-B131
JournalJournal of the Optical Society of America A
Issue number4
Early online date8 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Published by The Optical Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. Further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the published article's title, journal citation, and DOI.

Funding: Innovate UK (900042); Engineering and
Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) (EP/M000885/
1); Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
(BBSRC) (Impact Acceleration Award).


  • Polarized light
  • Raman spectroscopy
  • Refractive anomalies
  • Scanning laser ophthalmoscopy
  • Visual contrast sensitivity
  • White light


Dive into the research topics of 'Haidinger’s brushes elicited at varying degrees of polarization rapidly and easily assesses total macular pigmentation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this