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Keywords:

  • destructive interference;
  • flicker sensitivity;
  • luminance;
  • luminous efficiency functions;
  • mesopic;
  • phase delays;
  • photopic;
  • scotopic

Abstract

Of all the functions that define visual performance, the mesopic luminous efficiency function is probably the most complex and hardest to standardise or model. Complexities arise because of the substantial and often rapid visual changes that accompany the transition from scotopic to photopic vision. These are caused not only by the switch from rod to cone photoreceptors, but also by switches between different post-receptoral pathways through which the rod and cone signals are transmitted. In this review, we list several of the complexities of mesopic vision, such as rod–cone interactions, rod saturation, mixed photoreceptor spectral sensitivities, different rod and cone retinal distributions, and the changes in the spatial properties of the visual system as it changes from rod- to cone-mediated. Our main focus, however, is the enormous and often neglected temporal changes that occur in the mesopic range and their effect on luminous efficiency. Even before the transition from rod to cone vision is complete, a transition occurs within the rod system itself from a sluggish, sensitive post-receptoral pathway to a faster, less sensitive pathway. As a consequence of these complexities, any measure of mesopic performance will depend not only on the illumination level, but also on the spectral content of the stimuli used to probe performance, their retinal location, their spatial frequency content, and their temporal frequency content. All these should be considered when attempting to derive (or to apply) a luminous efficiency function for mesopic vision.