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Prismatic displacement effect of progressive multifocal glasses on reaction time and accuracy in elderly people

Authors Ellison A, Campbell AJ, Robertson MC, Sanderson G

Received 24 November 2013

Accepted for publication 27 December 2013

Published 9 May 2014 Volume 2014:8 Pages 891—902


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Ashton C Ellison, A John Campbell, M Clare Robertson, Gordon F Sanderson

Dunedin School of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Dunedin, New Zealand

Background: Multifocal glasses (bifocals, trifocals, and progressives) increase the risk of falling in elderly people, but how they do so is unclear. To explain why glasses with progressive addition lenses increase the risk of falls and whether this can be attributed to false projection, this study aimed to 1) map the prismatic displacement of a progressive lens, and 2) test whether this displacement impaired reaction time and accuracy.
Methods: The reaction times of healthy ≥75-year-olds (31 participants) were measured when grasping for a bar and touching a black line. Participants performed each test twice, wearing their progressives and new, matched single vision (distance) glasses in random order. The line and bar targets were positioned according to the maximum and minimum prismatic displacement effect through the progressive lens, mapped using a focimeter.
Results: Progressive spectacle lenses have large areas of prismatic displacement in the central visual axis and edges. Reaction time was faster for progressives compared with single vision glasses with a centrally-placed horizontal grab bar (mean difference 101 ms, P=0.011 [repeated measures analysis]) and a horizontal black line placed 300 mm below center (mean difference 80 ms, P=0.007). There was no difference in accuracy between the two types of glasses.
Conclusion: Older people appear to adapt to the false projection of progressives in the central visual axis. This adaptation means that swapping to new glasses or a large change in prescription may lead to a fall. Frequently updating glasses may be more beneficial.

Keywords: fall prevention, false projection, stored visual spatial information

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