A Study of Pupil Response Components in Human Vision

  • John L. Barbur


The accepted classical view of the pupil response to light is that the ambient light level determines largely the steady-state size of the pupil (Lowenstein et al, 1964) and that rapid increments in light flux on the retina cause a brisk constriction of the pupil, that is often described as the dynamic pupil light reflex response (Stark & Shermann, 1957; Alexandridis, 1985; Lowenfeld, 1993). The afferent pathways involved in the control of the pupil in man have been associated with subcortical projections and this is consistent with clinical observations which suggest that the pupils continue to respond normally to sudden changes in room illumination even when the patients are corticaliy blind (Brindley et al, 1969). The response of the pupil often represents an important measurement in neurological and ophthalmologic examinations, but the poor understanding of the visual pathways involved and the kind of stimulus characteristics that cause pupillary responses limit the usefulness and potential use of such tests. Animal studies have contributed significantly to our understanding of the afferent neural pathways that subserve the Pupil Light Reflex response (PLR) in man and helped to reinforce the accepted classical view. Lesion studies combined with measurements of pupil responses before and after surgery in monkey have demonstrated the direct invol vement of the pretectal olivary nuclei and the Edinger-Westphal nuclei in both the steady state control of pupil size and the dynamic PLR response (Pierson & Carpenter, 1974). In rat, the control of the pupil response is somewhat less complicated and functionally more consistent with the regulation of retinal illuminance (Clarke & Ikeda, 1985a, b). The pupil diameter follows an almost linear relationship when plotted as a function of the logarithm of retinal illuminance over a wide range.


Pupil Size Pupil Diameter Light Flux Pupil Response Luminance Contrast 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • John L. Barbur
    • 1
  1. 1.Applied Vision Research Centre, Department of Optometry and Visual ScienceCity University Northampton SquareLondonUK

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