PURPOSE: To investigate the effect of age on optokinetic nystagmus (OKN) in response to stimuli designed to preferentially stimulate the M-pathway. METHOD: OKN was recorded in 10 younger (32.3 +/- 5.98 years) and 10 older (65.6 +/- 6.53) subjects with normal vision. Vertical gratings of 0.43 or 1.08 cpd drifting at 5 degrees /s or 20 degrees /s and presented at either 8% or 80% contrast were displayed on a large screen as full-field stimulation, central stimulation within a central Gaussian-blurred window of 15 degrees diameter, or peripheral stimulation outside this window. All conditions apart from the high-contrast condition were presented in a random order at two light levels, mesopic (1.8 cdm(-2)) and photopic (71.5 cdm(-2)). RESULTS: Partial-field data indicated that central stimulation, mesopic light levels, and lower temporal frequency each significantly increased slow-phase velocity (SPV). Although there was no overall difference between groups for partial-field stimulation, full-field stimulation, or low-contrast stimulation, a change in illumination revealed a significant interaction with age: there was a larger decrease in SPV going from photopic to mesopic conditions for the older group than the younger group, especially for higher temporal frequency stimulation. CONCLUSIONS: OKN becomes reflexive in conditions conducive to M-pathway stimulation, and this rOKN response is significantly diminished in older healthy adults than in younger healthy adults, indicative of decreased M-pathway sensitivity
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