The perception of contrast was measured in patients with acute unilateral optic neuritis by a technique of subjective suprathreshold contrast matching, and was compared with contrast sensitivity as defined by threshold measurements. The suprathreshold apparent contrast and threshold contrast sensitivity was repeatedly assessed during the recovery phase. Generally, an attenuation of suprathreshold apparent contrast was found for high and intermediate spatial frequencies in the eye with optic neuritis. At a low spatial frequency, however, the suprathreshold contrast vision was spared. The threshold contrast sensitivity was not however, spared at low spatial frequencies. During recovery this frequency-specific loss in suprathreshold apparent contrast diminished and finally a "normal" suprathreshold contrast vision was observed in all affected eyes reaching a visual acuity of 1.0 or better. In these cases also subjectively normal vision was reported in site of a persisting abnormality in threshold contrast sensitivity.
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