Improving vision: neural compensation for optical defocus

M. Mon-Williams*, J. R. Tresilian, N. C. Strang, P. Kochhar, J. P. Wann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Citations (Scopus)


Anecdotal reports abound of vision improving in myopia after a period of time without refractive correction. We explored whether this effect is due to an increased tolerance of blur or whether it reflects a genuine improvement in vision. Our results clearly demonstrated a marked improvement in the ability to detect and recognize letters following prolonged exposure to optical defocus. We ensured that ophthalmic change did not occur, and thus the phenomenon must be due to a neural compensation for the defocus condition. A second set of experiments measured contrast sensitivity and found a decrease in sensitivity to mid-range (5-25 cycles deg-(l)) spatial frequencies following exposure to optical defocus. The results of the two experiments may be explained by the unmasking of low contrast, high spatial frequency information spatial frequency information via a two-stage process: (1) the pattern of relative channel outputs is maintained during optical defocus by the depression of mid-range spatial frequency channels; (2) channel outputs are pooled prior to the production of the final percept. The second set of experiments also provided some evidence ofinter-ocular transfer, indicating that the adaptation process is occurring at binocular sites in the cortex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-77
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1390
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptation
  • Blur
  • Human vision
  • Neural compensation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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