Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Richard A. Bone

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Bernard S. Gerstman

Third Advisor's Name

John T. Landrum

Fourth Advisor's Name

Rajamani Narayanan


retina, radiation damage, age-related macular degeneration, eye-tracker

Date of Defense



Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness inAmerica. The fact that AMD wreaks most of the damage in the center of the retina raises the question of whether light, integrated over long periods, is more concentrated in the macula.

A method, based on eye-tracking, was developed to measure the distribution of light in the retina under natural viewing conditions. The hypothesis was that integrated over time, retinal illumination peaked in the macula. Additionally a possible relationship between age and retinal illumination was investigated.

The eye tracker superimposed the subject’s gaze position on a video recorded by a scene camera. Five informed subjects were employed in feasibility tests, and 58 naïve subjects participated in 5 phases. In phase 1 the subjects viewed a gray-scale image. In phase 2, they observed a sequence of photographic images. In phase 3 they viewed a video. In phase 4, they worked on a computer; in phase 5, the subjects walked around freely. The informed subjects were instructed to gaze at bright objects in the field of view and then at dark objects. Naïve subjects were allowed to gaze freely for all phases. Using the subject’s gaze coordinates, and the video provided by the scene camera, the cumulative light distribution on the retina was calculated for ~15° around the fovea.

As expected for control subjects, cumulative retinal light distributions peaked and dipped in the fovea when they gazed at bright or dark objects respectively. The light distribution maps obtained from the naïve subjects presented a tendency to peak in the macula for phases 1, 2, and 3, a consistent tendency in phase 4 and a variable tendency in phase 5.

The feasibility of using an eye-tracker system to measure the distribution of light in the retina was demonstrated, thus helping to understand the role played by light exposure in the etiology of AMD. Results showed that a tendency for light to peak in the macula is a characteristic of some individuals and of certain tasks. In these situations, risk of AMD could be increased. No significant difference was observed based on age.



Included in

Physics Commons



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