Defocus blur imposed by positive lenses can induce hyperopia, whereas blur imposed by diffusers induces deprivation myopia. It is unclear whether the retina can distinguish between both conditions when the magnitude of blur is matched.
Ten emmetropic (average 0.0 ± 0.3 diopters [D]) and 10 subjects with myopia (-2.7 ± 0.9 D; 24 ± 4 years) watched a movie on a large screen (65 inches at 2 meters (m) distance. The movie was presented either unfiltered (“control”), with calculated low-pass filtering equivalent to a defocus of 2.5 D, or with binocular real optical defocus of +2.5 D. Spatial filtering was done in real-time by software written in Visual C++. Axial length was followed with the Lenstar LS-900 with autopositioning system.
Watching unfiltered movies (“control”) caused no changes in axial length. In emmetropes, watching movies with calculated defocus caused axial eye elongation (+9.8 ± 7.6 µm) while watching movies with real positive defocus caused shorter eyes (-8.8 ± 9.2 µm; difference between both P < 0.0001). In addition, in myopes, calculated defocus caused longer eyes (+8.4 ± 9.0 µm, P = 0.001). Strikingly, myopic eyes became also longer with positive defocus (+9.1 ± 11.2 µm, P = 0.02). The difference between emmetropic and myopic eyes was highly significant (-8.8 ± 9.2 µm vs. +9.1 ± 11.2 µm, respectively, P = 0.001).
(1) In emmetropic human subjects, the retina is able to distinguish between real positive defocus and calculated defocus even when the modulation transfer function was matched, (2) in myopic eyes, the retina no longer distinguishes between both conditions because the eyes became longer in both cases. Results suggest that the retina in a myopic eye has reduced ability to detect positive defocus.