Chicks respond to two signals from longitudinal chromatic aberration (LCA): a wavelength defocus signal and a chromatic signal. Wavelength defocus predicts reduced axial eye growth in monochromatic short-wavelength light, compared to monochromatic long-wavelength light. Wavelength defocus may also influence growth in broadband light. In contrast, a chromatic signal predicts increased growth when short-wavelength contrast > long-wavelength contrast, but only when light is broadband. We aimed to investigate the influence of blue light, temporal frequency and contrast on these signals under broadband conditions. Starting at 12 to 13 days-old, 587 chicks were exposed to the experimental illumination conditions for three days for 8h/day and spent the remainder of their day in the dark. The stimuli were flickering lights, with a temporal frequency of 0.2 or 10 Hz, low (30%) or high contrast (80%), and a variety of ratios of cone contrast simulating the effects of defocus with LCA. There were two color conditions, with blue contrast (bPlus) and without (bMinus). Stimuli in the “bPlus” condition varied the amounts of long-(L), middle- (M_) and double (D-) cone contrast, relative to short- (S-) and (UV-) cone contrast, to simulate defocus. Stimuli in the “bMinus” condition only varied the relative modulations of the L + D vs. M cones. In all cases, the average of the stimuli was white, with an illuminance of 777 lux, with cone contrast created through temporal modulation. A Lenstar LS 900 and a Hartinger refractometer were used to measure ocular components and refraction. Wavelength defocus signals with relatively high S-cone contrast resulted in reduced axial growth, and more hyperopic refractions, under low-frequency conditions (p = 0.002), in response to the myopic defocus of blue light. Chromatic signals with relatively high S-cone contrast resulted in increased axial growth and more myopic refractions, under high frequency, low contrast, conditions (p < 0.001). We conclude that the chromatic signals from LCA are dependent on the relative amount of S-cone temporal modulation, and recommend broadband spectral and temporal environments, such as the outdoor environment, to optimize the signals-for-defocus in chick.
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