Gene-environment interactions and aging visual function: a classical twin study.

Ruth Hogg, Peter N Dimitrov, Mohammed Dirani, Mary Varsamidis, Paul N Baird, Robyn H Guymer, Algis Vingrys, Matthew Chamberlain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


To elucidate the contribution of environmental versus genetic factors to the significant losses in visual function associated with normal aging.
A classical twin study.
Forty-two twin pairs (21 monozygotic and 21 dizygotic; age 57-75 years) with normal visual acuity recruited through the Australian Twin Registry.
Cone function was evaluated by establishing absolute cone contrast thresholds to flicker (4 and 14 Hz) and isoluminant red and blue colors under steady state adaptation. Adaptation dynamics were determined for both cones and rods. Bootstrap resampling was used to return robust intrapair correlations for each parameter.
Psychophysical thresholds and adaptational time constants.
The intrapair correlations for all color and flicker thresholds, as well as cone absolute threshold, were significantly higher in monozygotic compared with dizygotic twin pairs (P<0.05). Rod absolute thresholds (P = 0.28) and rod and cone recovery rate (P = 0.83; P = 0.79, respectively) did not show significant differences between monozygotic and dizygotic twins in their intrapair correlations, indicating that steady-state cone thresholds and flicker thresholds have a marked genetic contribution, in contrast with rod thresholds and adaptive processes, which are influenced more by environmental factors over a lifetime.
Genes and the environment contribute differently to important neuronal processes in the retina and the role they may play in the decline in visual function as we age. Consequently, retinal structures involved in rod thresholds and adaptive processes may be responsive to appropriate environmental manipulation. Because the functions tested are commonly impaired in the early stages of age-related macular degeneration, which is known to have a multifactorial etiology, this study supports the view that pathogenic pathways early in the disease may be altered by appropriate environmental intervention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-269
Number of pages7
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology

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