Effects of mydriatics on rod/cone- and melanopsin-driven pupil responses

Sarah Flanagan, Kathryn J Saunders, Hope Queener, Patrick Richardson, Lisa Ostrin

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3 Citations (Scopus)
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SIGNIFICANCE: Pupillometry protocols evaluating rod/cone- and melanopsin-driven responses often use mydriatics to ensure maximal stimulus exposure; however, retinal effects of mydriatics are not fully understood. We demonstrate that dilation with either atropine or phenylephrine results in similar enhancements of rod/cone- and melanopsin-driven pupil responses. 

PURPOSE: The purposes of this study were to compare the effects of atropine, a muscarinic antagonist, and phenylephrine, an adrenergic agonist, on consensual pupil responses and to assess the repeatability of pupil metrics without mydriasis. 

METHODS: Right eye pupil responses of 20 adults aged 21 to 42 years were recorded before and 45 minutes after instillation of 0.5% atropine or 2.5% phenylephrine in the left eye. Stimuli were presented to the left eye and included six alternating 1-second 651-nm "red" and 456-nm "blue" flashes. Metrics included baseline pupil diameter, maximal constriction, 6- and 30-second post-illumination pupil responses, and early (0 to 10 seconds) and late (10 to 30 seconds) areas under the curve. 

RESULTS: Dilation of the stimulated eye with either mydriatic significantly increased the 6-second post-illumination pupil response and early and late areas under the curve for blue stimuli, and early area under the curve for red stimuli (P < .05 for all). Melanopsin-driven post-illumination pupil responses, achieved with either phenylephrine or atropine, did not significantly differ from each other (P > .05 for all). Without mydriasis, intersession intraclass correlation coefficients for pupil metrics were 0.63 and 0.50 (6- and 30-second post-illumination pupil responses, respectively) and 0.78 and 0.44 (early and late areas under the curve, respectively) for blue stimuli, with no significant difference between sessions (P > .05 for all). 

CONCLUSIONS: Dilation with phenylephrine or atropine resulted in similar enhancements of the rod/cone- and melanopsin-driven pupil responses, despite differing mechanisms. Early pupil metrics without mydriasis demonstrated moderate to good intersession repeatability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-206
Number of pages9
JournalOptometry and Vision Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells
  • melanopsin
  • mydriatics
  • pupil responses
  • atropine
  • phenylephrine
  • post-illumination pupil response


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