Simultaneous changes in visual acuity, cortical population receptive field size, visual field map size, and retinal thickness in healthy human aging

Maria Fatima Silva, Ben M. Harvey*, Lília Jorge, Nádia Canário, Fátima Machado, Mário Soares, Otília C. d’Almeida, Miguel Castelo-Branco

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Healthy human aging is associated with a deterioration of visual acuity, retinal thinning, visual field map shrinkage and increasing population receptive field sizes. Here we ask how these changes are related to each other in a cross-sectional sample of fifty healthy adults aged 20–80 years. We hypothesized that age-related loss of macular retinal ganglion cells may lead to decreased visual field map sizes, and both may lead to increased pRF sizes in the cortical central visual field representation. We measured our participants’ perceptual corrected visual acuity using standard ophthalmological letter charts. We then measured their early visual field map (V1, V2 and V3) functional population receptive field (pRF) sizes and structural surface areas using fMRI, and their retinal structure using high-definition optical coherence tomography. With increasing age visual acuity decreased, pRF sizes increased, visual field maps surface areas (but not whole-brain surface areas) decreased, and retinal thickness decreased. Among these measures, only functional pRF sizes predicted perceptual visual acuity, and Bayesian statistics support a null relationship between visual acuity and cortical or retinal structure. However, pRF sizes were in turn predicted by cortical structure only (visual field map surface areas), which were only predicted by retinal structure (thickness). These results suggest that simultaneous disruptions of neural structure and function throughout the early visual system may underlie the deterioration of perceptual visual acuity in healthy aging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2839-2853
JournalBrain Structure and Function
Volume226
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Aging
  • fMRI
  • Population receptive field (pRF) modeling
  • Retinal thickness
  • Visual acuity
  • Visual cortex

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