The Action Spectrum of Photochemical Damage to the Retina: A Review of Monochromatic Threshold Data


  • Dirk van Norren,

    Corresponding author
    1. University Medical Center Utrecht, and TNO, Soesterberg, The Netherlands
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  • Theo G.M.F. Gorgels

    1. Department of Clinical and Molecular Ophthalmogenetics, Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, Institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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Corresponding author email: (Dirk van Norren)


Photochemical damage to the retina occurs for prolonged exposures of intense light. Two action spectra exist for this phenomenon. In rat an action spectrum matching the absorption spectrum of rhodopsin was found. In macaque, the susceptibility for photochemical damage decreased continuously from the UV to long visible wavelengths. Later, such a spectrum was also found in rat. In search for critical parameters that determine the shape of the spectrum we gathered all available data on the damage threshold dose for monochromatic radiation and noted the experimental conditions. The rhodopsin action spectrum was found in two sources; the other 16 sources adhered to the short wavelength spectrum. Comparing the conditions we conclude that the critical parameters for the generation of either action spectrum remain elusive. Experiments are suggested to resolve this issue and fill a few gaps in our knowledge.