Trying to see, failing to focus: near visual impairment in Down syndrome

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The majority of individuals with Down syndrome (DS) do not exhibit accurate accommodation, with the aetiology of this deficit unknown. This study examines the mechanism underlying hypoaccommodation in DS by simultaneously investigating the ‘near triad’ – accommodation, vergence and pupillary response. An objective photorefraction system measured accommodation, pupil size and gaze position (vergence) under binocular conditions while participants viewed an animated movie at 50, 33, 25 and 20 cm. Participants were aged 6–16 years (DS = 41, controls = 76). Measures were obtained from 59% of participants with DS and 99% of controls. Accommodative response was significantly less in DS (p <0.001) and greater accommodative deficits were associated with worsening visual acuity (p = 0.02). Vergence responses were as accurate in DS as in controls (p = 0.90). Habitual pupil diameter did not differ between groups (p = 0.24) but reduced significantly with increasing accommodative demand in both participants with and without DS (p <0.0001). This study is the first to report simultaneous binocular measurement of the near triad in DS demonstrating that hypoaccommodation is linked to poor visual acuity. Vergence responses were accurate indicating that hypoaccommodation cannot be dismissed as a failure to visually engage with near targets, but rather is a consequence of underlying neurological or physiological deficits.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20444
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 5 Feb 2016


  • Down syndrome
  • accommodation
  • vergence
  • vision


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