• accommodation;
  • autonomic nervous system;
  • heart rate variability;
  • refractive error


Purpose:  To evaluate the hypothesis that objective measures of open- and closed-loop ocular accommodation are related to systemic cardiovascular function, and ipso facto autonomic nervous system activity.

Methods:  Sixty subjects (29 male; 31 female) varying in age from 18 to 33 years (average: 20.3 ± 2.9 years) with a range of refractive errors [mean spherical equivalent (MSE): −7.12 to +1.82 D] participated in the study. Five 20-s continuous objective recordings of the accommodative response, measured with an open-view IR autorefractor (Shin-Nippon SRW-5000), were obtained for a variety of open- and closed-loop accommodative demands while simultaneous continuous measurement of heart rate was recorded with a finger-mounted piezo-electric pulse transducer for 5 min. Fast Fourier Transformation of cardiovascular function allowed the absolute and relative power of the autonomic components to be assessed in the frequency-domain, whereas heart period gave an indication of the time-domain response.

Results:  Increasing closed-loop accommodative demand led to a concurrent increase in heart rate of approximately 2 beats/min for a 4.0 D increase in accommodative demand. The increase was attributable to a reduction in the absolute (p < 0.05) and normalised (p < 0.001) input of the systemic parasympathetic nervous system, and was unaffected by refractive group. The interaction with refractive group failed to reach significance.

Conclusions:  For sustained accommodation effort, the data demonstrate covariation between the oculomotor and cardiovascular systems which implies that a near visual task can significantly influence cardiovascular behaviour. Accommodative effort alone, however, is not a sufficient stimulus to induce autonomic differences between refractive groups. The data suggest that both the oculomotor and cardiovascular systems are predominantly attributable to changes in the systemic parasympathetic nervous system.