Opthalmic and visual optics

The Ophthalmic and Visual Optics Research Group is led by Dr David Atchison, a Professor in the School of Optometry and Vision Science at QUT.  The group is based at the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) and is part of the Institute's Vision Improvement Domain.

Professor Atchison has been researching in the field of visual optics for many years, and has published over 100 refereed publications.

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Research leader
Research team
QUT External collaborators

Australian Collaborators

  • Dr Dion Scott (University of Queensland)

International Collaborators

  • Professor Neil Charman (University of Manchester, United Kingdom)
  • Dr Ed Mallen (Bradford University, United Kingdom)
  • Dr Jos Rozema (Antwerp University Hospital, Belgium)
  • Professor Susana Marcos (CSIS, Madrid, Spain)
  • Dr Sotiris Plainis (University of Crete, Crete)
  • Dr Sanjeev Kasthurirangan (Abbott Medical, California, USA)
Organisational unit
Lead unit Faculty of Health Other units
Research areas


Opthalmic - ocular accomodation

Ocular Accommodation

The Ophthalmic and Visual Optics Research Group is currently investigating the characteristics of the accommodation response (ref 1-6), particularly as a function of age and when there are ambiguous stimuli to accommodation, such as objects at different distances and when astigmatism is present. Induced astigmatism produces a variety of different subject responses. Some subjects show a tracking response in which accommodation fluctuates to bring different aspects of a target into focus at different times. Professor Atchison's co-workers for this project are Lawrence Stark and Niall Strang.


Optics of the Eye

For a number of years, Professor Atchison has investigated the optics of the eye and its effects on retinal image quality and visual performance (ref 7-13). Together with Russell Woods, Arthur Bradley and Niall Strang, he has demonstrated the presence of several "notches" in the contrast sensitivity function which occur as a result of defocus. The depth and spatial frequency of these notches are generally in good agreement with predictions based on measured aberrations (ref 14, 15).

Opthalmic - objects spatial frequency

In current research, Professor Atchison is investigating and comparing the validity of a number of different methods of measuring aberrations and image quality e.g. point spread function, Hartmann-Shack wavefront sensor, Howland aberroscope (ref 16), subjective vernier alignment techniques and contrast sensitivity. Aberrations of the peripheral vision field are being measured with the Hartmann-Shack sensor.

Opthalmic - distance from equatorial axis

The figure shows examples of refractive index profiles from the centre of the lens nucleus to the lens surface of a 28-year-old lens (closed circles) and an 82-year-old lens (open circles).


The gradient index structure of the lens is being investigated in collaboration with Professor Jim Pope's MRI laboratory in the School of Chemistry, Physics and Mechanical Engineering at QUT. This work has shown that the refractive index of the nucleus of the lens reduces with age, thus reducing the contribution of the gradient index to the power of the lens. This explains the lens paradox, the phenomenon in which the lens becomes more curved throughout life, but where there is generally no increase in myopia (ref 17).

Stiles-Crawford Effect (SCE)

The SCE is the phenomemon by which light passing through the periphery of the eye??s pupil is less efficient at stimulating vision than is light passing near the centre of the pupil. It is often claimed that the SCE attenuates the effects of defocus and aberrations on visual performance, but evidence for this claim has been lacking. One way to estimate the influence of the SCE on visual performance is to measure the latter both when the SCE is naturally operating and when it is neutralised.  We developed neutralising filters and used these to investigate the influence of the SCE. Our results (eg ref 18) support our theoretical investigations (ref 19, 20) in indicating that the SCE has only small influence on visual performance. Collaborators are Dion Scott, Niall Strang, George Smith, Pablo Artal and Susana Marcos.

Opthalmic - researchers

Dion Scott, and Chitra and Kodikullam Avudainayagam working with the aberroscope in the Ophthalmic and Visual Optics Lab.

Ophthalmic Optics

Professor Atchison's interest in the optics of the eye has included the optics of correcting devices. The optical design of spectacle lenses can usually be considered in isolation from the eye??s optics, with the eye merely providing the refractive error and centre of rotation (ref 21). This is certainly not the case for contact lenses (ref 22) and intraocular lenses (ref 23). Aspheric lens surfaces can be used for all three corrections. In the case of spectacle lenses, this can improve cosmesis without sacrificing optical performance (ref 24, 25). For contact lenses and intraocular lenses, aspherising surfaces can improve the optics (ref 21, 26).  However, for all three modalities, good performance is lost when lenses are not optimally fitted.

Current research is investigating the possibility of correcting the peripheral aberrations of the eye using spectacle lenses with special refractive surfaces or holographic properties (ref 27). Collaborators are George Smith, Chitra Avudainayagam and Kodikullam Avudainayagam.

Publications and output

  1. Stark LS, Atchison DA (1994). Subject instructions and methods of target presentation in accommodation research. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 35, 528-537.
  2. Atchison DA, Claydon CA, Irwin SE (1994). Effect of head position and eye gaze upon amplitude of accommodation. Optom Vis Sci 71, 339-345.
  3. Atchison DA, Capper LJ, McCabe KL (1994). Critical subjective measurement of amplitude of accommodation. Optom Vis Sci 71, 699-706.
  4. Bruce AS, Atchison DA, Bhoola H (1995). Accommodative-convergence relationships and age. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 36, 406-413.
  5. Bhoola H, Bruce AS, Atchison DA (1995). Validity of clinical measures of the AC/A ratio. Clin Exp Optom 78, 3-10.Stark LR, Atchison DA (1998).
  6. Effect of an intervening screen on accommodation to a distant object. Clin Exp Optom 81, 119-130.
  7. Wildsoet CW, Atchison DA, Collins MJ (1993). Longitudinal chromatic aberration as a function of refractive error. Clin Exp Optom 76, 119-122.
  8. Atchison DA, Smith G, Waterworth MD (1993). Theoretical effect of refractive error and accommodation upon longitudinal chromatic aberration. Optom Vis Sci 70, 716-722.
  9. Atchison DA, Collins MJ, Wildsoet CW, Christensen J, Waterworth MD (1995). Measurement of monochromatic ocular aberrations of human eyes as a function of accommodation by the Howland aberroscope technique. Vision Res 35, 313-323.
  10. Collins MJ, Wildsoet CW, Atchison DA (1995). Myopia and monochromatic aberrations. Vision Res 35, 1157-1163.
  11. Woods RL, Bradley A, Atchison DA (1996). Monocular diplopia caused by ocular aberrations and hyperopic defocus. Vision Res 36, 3597-3606.
  12. Woods RL, Bradley A, Atchison DA (1996). Consequences of monocular diplopia for the contrast sensitivity function. Vision Res 36, 3587-3596.
  13. Woods RL, Strang NC, Atchison DA (2000). Measuring contrast sensitivity with inappropriate optical correction. Ophthal Physiol Opt (in press).
  14. Atchison DA, Woods RL, Bradley A (1998). Ocular transverse aberrations predict the complex effects of defocus on human contrast sensitivity function. J Opt Soc Amer A 15, 2536-2544.
  15. Strang N, Atchison DA, Woods RL (1999). Effects of defocus and pupil size on human contrast sensitivity. Ophthal Physiol Opt 19, 415-426.
  16. Smith G, Applegate RA, Atchison DA (1998). An assessment of the accuracy of the crossed-cylinder aberroscope technique. J. Opt. Soc. Amer.A 15, 2477-2487.
  17. Moffat B, Atchison DA, Pope JM (2002). Explanation of the lens paradox. Optom Vis Sci (in press).
  18. Atchison DA, Scott DH, Artal P, Strang NC (2001). The influence of the Stiles-Crawford effect on visual acuity. Vision Science and its Applications, OSA Technical Digest (Optical Society of America, Washington DC), 24-27.
  19. Atchison DA, Joblin A, Smith G (1998). Influence of Stiles-Crawford apodization on spatial visual performance. J Opt Soc Amer A 15, 2545-2551.
  20. Atchison DA, Scott DH, Joblin A, Smith G (2001). Influence of Stiles-Crawford effect apodization on spatial visual performance with decentered pupils. J Opt Soc Amer A 18, 1201-1211.
  21. Atchison DA (1985). Modern optical design assessment and spectacle lenses. Optica Acta 32, 607-634.
  22. Atchison DA (1995). Aberrations associated with rigid contact lenses. J Opt Soc Amer A 12, 2267-2273.
  23. Atchison DA (1990). Optical design of poly(methyl methacrylate) intraocular lenses. J Cat Refract Surg 16, 178-187.
  24. Atchison DA, Tame SA (1992). Performance of aspheric spectacle lenses. Clin Exp Optom 75, 210-217.
  25. Atchison DA, Tame S (1993). Sensitivity of off-axis performance of aspheric spectacle lenses to tilt and decentration. Ophthal Physiol Optics 13, 415-421.
  26. Atchison DA (1991). Design of aspheric intraocular lenses. Ophthal Physiol Optics 11, 137-146.
  27. Smith G, Atchison DA, Avudainayagam C, Avudainayagam K (2002). Designing lenses to correct peripheral refractive errors of the eye. J Opt Soc Amer A 19, 10-18.
View a full list of Dr David Atchison's publications