Effects of stimulus size and luminance on oscillopsia in congenital nystagmus Academic Article uri icon


  • Although the absence of oscillopsia is a common feature of congenital nystagmus (CN), it is occasionally noted by patients under poor viewing conditions and has been provoked in laboratory settings with stabilised images. In the present study, the effects of reductions in background stimulus size and luminance on perceptual stability in CN were examined. Sixteen CN subjects were first interviewed using a structured questionnaire about whether they ever experienced oscillopsia and, if so, under what circumstances and with what perceptions. They next fixated an LED centred in projected images of three sizes (21x14 degrees, 10x6 degrees and 7x4 degrees) and four luminance levels (115.5, 24.5, 2.7 and 0.1 cd/m2, with contrasts from 96 down to 20%). Eye movements were recorded with a limbal tracker. They were asked after viewing each image "whether anything happened to the image while they watched it." Occasional oscillopsia was reported by 12/16 of the CN subjects on the questionnaire. In the laboratory, 13/16 subjects experienced oscillopsia in some manner for at least one of the stimuli. 8/13 CN subjects experienced it for the dimmest and smallest slides. 11/13 perceived certain parts (either the LED or background) of the visual stimuli as moving, with the perception of LED movement most pronounced at low background luminance. Foveation did not differ when trials with and without reported oscillopsia were compared (independent samples t-test, p>0.05). Oscillopsia may occur in CN with normal viewing of bright fixation targets against dim backgrounds. Under these conditions, the oscillopsia may be spatially inhomogeneous. Luminance differences between the fixation point and surround may have caused transmission time differences as the image moved across the retina, therefore leading to the perception of motion in one portion of the scene and not the other.

publication date

  • November 2003