Contrast Increment and Decrement Processing in Individuals With and Without Diabetes

Vanessa Thien Sze Tang, Robert Charles Andrew Symons, Spiros Fourlanos, Daryl Guest, Allison Maree McKendrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Animal models suggest that ON retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) may be more vulnerable to diabetic insult than OFF cells. Using three psychophysical tasks to infer the function of ON and OFF RGCs, we hypothesized that functional responses to contrast increments will be preferentially affected in early diabetes mellitus (DM) compared to contrast decrement responses. Methods: Fifty-two people with DM (type 1 or type 2) (mean age = 34.8 years, range = 18-60 years) and 48 age-matched controls (mean age = 35.4 years, range = 18-60 years) participated. Experiment 1 measured contrast sensitivity to increments and decrements at four visual field locations. Experiments 2 and 3 measured visual temporal processing using (i) a response time (RT) task, and (ii) a temporal order judgment task. Mean RT and accuracy were collected for experiment 2, whereas experiment 3 measured temporal thresholds. Results: For experiment 1, the DM group showed reduced increment and decrement contrast sensitivity (F (1, 97) = 4.04, P = 0.047) especially for the central location. For experiment 2, those with DM demonstrated slower RT and lower response accuracies to increments and decrements (increments: U = 780, P = 0.01, decrements: U = 749, P = 0.005). For experiment 3, performance was similar between groups (F (1, 91) = 2.52, P = 0.137). Conclusions: When assessed cross-sectionally, nonselective functional consequences of retinal neuron damage are present in early DM, particularly for foveal testing. Whether increment-decrement functional indices relate to diabetic retinopathy (DR) progression or poorer visual prognosis in DM requires further study.
Original languageEnglish
Article number26
Pages (from-to)26
Number of pages1
JournalInvestigative ophthalmology & visual science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2023

Cite this