Clinical studies of spatial and temporal aspects of vision: an investigation using psychophysical and electrophysiological techniques

  • Christine E. Wright

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Separate physiological mechanisms which respond to spatial and temporal
stimulation have been identified in the visual system. Some pathological
conditions may selectively affect these mechanisms, offering a unique
opportunity to investigate how psychophysical and electrophysiological tests reflect these visual processes, and thus enhance the use of the
tests in clinical diagnosis.
Amblyopia and optical blur were studied, representing spatial visual defects of neural and optical origin, respectively. Selective defects of the visual pathways were also studied - optic neuritis which affects the optic nerve, and dementia of the Alzheimer type in which the higher association areas are believed to be affected, but the primary projections spared.
Seventy control subjects from 10 to 79 years of age were investigated. This provided material for an additional study of the effect of age on the psychophysical and electrophysiological responses.
Spatial processing was measured by visual acuity, the contrast sensitivity
function, or spatial modulation transfer function (MTF), and the pattern reversal and pattern onset-offset visual evoked potential (VEP). Temporal, or luminance, processing was measured by the de Lange curve, or temporal MTF, and the flash VEP.
The pattern VEP was shown to reflect the integrity of the optic nerve, geniculo striate pathway and primary projections, and was related to high temporal frequency processing. The individual components of the flash VEP differed in their characteristics. The results suggested that the P2 component reflects the function of the higher association areas and is related to low temporal frequency processing, while the Pl component reflects the primary projection areas.
The combination of a delayed flash P2 component and a normal latency pattern VEP appears to be specific to dementia of the Alzheimer type and represents an important diagnostic test for this condition.
Date of AwardApr 1983
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorNeville Drasdo (Supervisor)


  • visual evoked potential
  • psychophysics
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • optic neuritis
  • reduced vision

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