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Haidinger’s brushes elicited at varying degrees of polarization rapidly and easily assesses total macular pigmentation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)B123-B131
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the Optical Society of America A
Issue number4
Early online date27 Mar 2019
DateAccepted/In press - 7 Mar 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 27 Mar 2019
DatePublished (current) - 1 Apr 2019


Macular pigments (MPs), by absorbing potentially toxic short-wavelength (400–500 nm) visible light, provide protection against photo-chemical damage thought to be relevant in the pathogenesis of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). A method of screening for low levels of MPs could be part of a prevention strategy for helping people to delay the onset of AMD. We introduce a new method for assessing MP density that takes advantage of the polarization-dependent absorption of blue light by MPs, which results in the entoptic phenomenon called Haidinger’s brushes (HB). Subjects were asked to identify the direction of rotation of HB when presented with a circular stimulus illuminated with an even intensity of polarized white light in which the electric field vector was rotating either clockwise or anti-clockwise. By reducing the degree of polarization of the stimulus light, a threshold for perceiving HB (degree of polarization threshold) was determined and correlated (r 2 0.66) to macular pigment optical density assessed using dual-wavelength fundus autofluoresence. The speed and ease of measurement of degree of polarization threshold makes it well suited for large-scale screening of macular pigmentation.

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