PURPOSE. To determine age-related changes in retinal response dynamics derived from multifocal electroretinograms (mfERGs). METHODS. MfERG data were obtained from 70 subjects with normal phakic eyes, age 9 to 80 years. Whereas the first- and higher-order kernels resulting from the mfERG contain detailed information regarding the nonlinear response dynamics of the retina, they do not lend themselves directly to an easy and intuitive interpretation. To achieve a better appreciation of fast adaptive mechanisms and their changes with aging, regional averages of the kernel series were translated at different retinal eccentricities (0°-5°, 5°-15°, and 15°-25°) into responses generated in different contexts. Specifically, the effect of aging on responses to stimuli presented in isolation was compared with the effect on responses adapted by preceding stimuli ("forward" effect). The interference of the immediately following stimuli with the response generation ("backward effect") was also considered. RESULTS. Age-related changes were found in the isolated flash response as well as in the backward and forward interactions between consecutive flash responses. Larger fractional changes with age were found in response density than in implicit time, and the rate of change with age was larger for responses to isolated flashes than for responses adapted by preceding flashes. CONCLUSIONS. Senescent changes in the isolated flash response and in consecutive flash interactions derived from the binary kernel series indicate an aging process at an early stage in the visual system. Mechanisms of retinal adaptation may partially compensate for age-related reductions in the isolated flash response.
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