Documenta Ophthalmologica

, Volume 139, Issue 2, pp 123–136 | Cite as

Objective and quantitative assessment of visual acuity and contrast sensitivity based on steady-state motion visual evoked potentials using concentric-ring paradigm

  • Xiaowei Zheng
  • Guanghua XuEmail author
  • Yunyun Wang
  • Chengcheng Han
  • Chenghang Du
  • Wenqaing Yan
  • Sicong Zhang
  • Renghao Liang
Original Research Article



The traditional assessment of visual acuity and contrast sensitivity depends more on subjective judgments. Steady-state motion visual evoked potentials (SSMVEPs) can provide an objective and quantitative method to evaluate visual functions such as visual acuity and contrast sensitivity. Here, we explored the possibility of objective SSMVEP visual acuity and contrast sensitivity testing, and compared its performance with that of psychophysical methods.


In this study, we designed a specific concentric ring with oscillating expansion and contraction SSMVEP paradigm to assess visual acuity and contrast sensitivity. By changing the parameters of the paradigm, the SSMVEP paradigm with different contrasts and spatial frequencies corresponding to different visual acuity and contrast sensitivity was designed. Moreover, we proposed a threshold determination criterion to define the corresponding objective SSMVEP visual acuity and contrast sensitivity.


We tested visual acuity and contrast sensitivity of sixteen healthy adults utilizing this paradigm with an electroencephalography system. Our data suggested that there was no significant difference between objective visual acuity and contrast sensitivity measurements based on the SSMVEPs and subjective psychophysical ones.


Our study proved that SSMVEPs can be an objective and quantitative method to measure visual acuity and contrast sensitivity.


Visual acuity Contrast sensitivity Threshold determination Steady-state motion visual evoked potential (SSMVEP) 



The authors thank all the subjects for their participation in this study. Supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC-51775415) and the Key Research and Development Program of Shaanxi Province of China (2018ZDCXL-GY-06-01).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Statement of human rights

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Statement on the welfare of animals

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. 1.
    Bourne RRA, Flaxman SR, Braithwaite T, Cicinelli MV, Das A, Jonas JB, Keeffe J, Kempen JH, Leasher J, Limburg H, Naidoo K, Pesudovs K, Resnikoff S, Silvester A, Stevens GA, Tahhan N, Wong TY, Taylor HR, Vision Loss Expert G (2017) Magnitude, temporal trends, and projections of the global prevalence of blindness and distance and near vision impairment: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Glob Health 5(9):e888–e897. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    World Health Organization (2018) Blindness and visual impairment. Accessed 11 Oct 2018
  3. 3.
    Mackay A (2003) Assessing children’s visual acuity with steady state evoked potentials. Dissertation, University of GlasgowGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Hemptinne C, Liu-Shuang J, Yuksel D, Rossion B (2018) Rapid objective assessment of contrast sensitivity and visual acuity with sweep visual evoked potentials and an extended electrode array. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 59(2):1144–1157. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Heinrich SP, Bock CM, Bach M (2016) Imitating the effect of amblyopia on VEP-based acuity estimates. Doc Ophthalmol 133(3):183–187. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Alves Pereira S, Costa MF (2012) Visual acuity evaluation in children with hydrocephalus: an electrophysiological study with sweep visual evoked potential. World J Neurosci 02(01):36–43. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Kurtenbach A, Langrová H, Messias A, Zrenner E, Jägle H (2013) A comparison of the performance of three visual evoked potential-based methods to estimate visual acuity. Documenta ophthalmologica Adv Ophthalmol 126(1):45–56. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Vesely P (2015) Contribution of sVEP visual acuity testing in comparison with subjective visual acuity. Biomed Pap Med Fac Univ Palacky Olomouc Czech Repub 159(4):616–621. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Norcia AM, Tyler CW (1985) Spatial frequency sweep VEP: visual acuity during the first year of life. Vis Res 25(10):1399–1408. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Almoqbel FM, Yadav NK, Leat SJ, Head LM, Irving EL (2011) Effects of sweep VEP parameters on visual acuity and contrast thresholds in children and adults. Graefe’s Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol 249(4):613–623. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Zhou P, Zhao MW, Li XX, Hu XF, Wu X, Niu LJ, Yu WZ, Xu XL (2008) A new method of extrapolating the sweep pattern visual evoked potential acuity. Doc Ophthalmol 117(2):85–91. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Norcia AM, Tyler CW, Hamer RD, Wesemann W (1989) Measurement of spatial contrast sensitivity with the swept contrast VEP. Vis Res 29(5):627–637. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Han C, Xu G, Xie J, Chen C, Zhang S (2018) Highly interactive brain-computer interface based on flicker-free steady-state motion visual evoked potential. Sci Rep 8(1):5835. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Yan W, Xu G, Xie J, Li M, Dan Z (2018) Four novel motion paradigms based on steady-state motion visual evoked potential. IEEE Trans Biomed Eng 65(8):1696–1704. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Xie J, Xu G, Wang J, Zhang F, Zhang Y (2012) Steady-state motion visual evoked potentials produced by oscillating Newton’s rings: implications for brain-computer interfaces. PLoS ONE 7(6):e39707. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Bach M, Maurer JP, Wolf ME (2008) Visual evoked potential-based acuity assessment in normal vision, artificially degraded vision, and in patients. Br J Ophthalmol 92(3):396–403. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Hoffmann MB, Brands J, Behrens-Baumann W, Bach M (2017) VEP-based acuity assessment in low vision. Doc Ophthalmol 135(3):209–218. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Brainard DH (1997) The Psychophysics Toolbox. Spat Vis 10(4):433–436. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Franco S, Silva AC, Carvalho AS, Macedo AS, Lira M (2010) Comparison of the VCTS-6500 and the CSV-1000 tests for visual contrast sensitivity testing. NeuroToxicology 31(6):758–761. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Han C, Xu G, Xie J, Li M, Zhang S, Luo A (2017) An eighty-target high-speed Chinese BCI speller. In: 2017 39th annual international conference of the IEEE engineering in medicine and biology society (EMBC), 11–15 July 2017, pp 1652–1655.
  21. 21.
    Meigen T, Bach M (1999) On the statistical significance of electrophysiological steady-state responses. Doc Ophthalmol 98(3):207–232. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    McBain VA, Robson AG, Hogg CR, Holder GE (2007) Assessment of patients with suspected non-organic visual loss using pattern appearance visual evoked potentials. Graefe’s Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol 245(4):502–510. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Abdullah SN, Vaegan Boon MY, Maddess T (2012) Contrast-response functions of the multifocal steady-state VEP (MSV). Clin Neurophysiol 123(9):1865–1871. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Wenner Y, Heinrich SP, Beisse C, Fuchs A, Bach M (2014) Visual evoked potential-based acuity assessment: overestimation in amblyopia. Doc Ophthalmol 128(3):191–200. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Hess RF, Mansouri B, Thompson B (2010) A new binocular approach to the treatment of amblyopia in adults well beyond the critical period of visual development. Restor Neurol Neurosci 28(6):793–802. Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Holmes JM, Lazar EL, Melia BM, Astle WF, Dagi LR, Donahue SP, Frazier MG, Hertle RW, Repka MX, Quinn GE, Weise KK (2011) Effect of age on response to amblyopia treatment in children. Arch Ophthalmol 129(11):1451–1457. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaowei Zheng
    • 1
  • Guanghua Xu
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Yunyun Wang
    • 3
  • Chengcheng Han
    • 1
  • Chenghang Du
    • 1
  • Wenqaing Yan
    • 1
  • Sicong Zhang
    • 1
  • Renghao Liang
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Mechanical EngineeringXi’an Jiaotong UniversityXi’anChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory for Manufacturing Systems EngineeringXi’an Jiaotong UniversityXi’anChina
  3. 3.School of Software EngineeringXi’an Jiaotong UniversityXi’anChina

Personalised recommendations