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Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 2014 May;34(3):309-20. doi: 10.1111/opo.12114. Epub 2014 Jan 7.

Influence of spherical aberration, stimulus spatial frequency, and pupil apodisation on subjective refractions.

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School of Optometry, Indiana University, Bloomington, USA.



To test competing hypotheses (Stiles Crawford pupil apodising or superior imaging of high spatial frequencies by the central pupil) for the pupil size independence of subjective refractions in the presence of primary spherical aberration.


Subjective refractions were obtained with a variety of test stimuli (high contrast letters, urban cityscape, high and low spatial frequency gratings) while modulating pupil diameter, levels of primary spherical aberration and pupil apodisation. Subjective refractions were also obtained with low-pass and high-pass stimuli and using 'darker' and 'sharper' subjective criteria.


Subjective refractions for stimuli containing high spatial frequencies focus a near paraxial region of the pupil and are affected only slightly by level of Seidel spherical aberration, degree of pupil apodisation and pupil diameter, and generally focused a radius of about 1-1.5 mm from the pupil centre. Low spatial frequency refractions focus a marginal region of the pupil, and are significantly affected by level of spherical aberration, amount of pupil apodisation, and pupil size. Clinical refractions that employ the 'darker' or 'sharper' subjective criteria bias the patient to use lower or higher spatial frequencies, respectively.


In the presence of significant levels of spherical aberration, the pupil size independence of subjective refractions occurs with or without Stiles Crawford apodisation for refractions that optimise high spatial frequency content in the image. If low spatial frequencies are optimised by a subjective refraction, spherical refractive error varies with spherical aberration, pupil size, and level of apodisation. As light levels drop from photopic to scotopic, therefore, we expect a shift from pupil size independent to pupil size dependent subjective refractions. Emphasising a 'sharper' criterion during subjective refractions will improve image quality for high spatial frequencies and generate pupil size independent refractions.


Stiles Crawford Effect; apodisation; psychophysical criterion; refractive error; spatial frequency; spherical aberration

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