Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) is a devastating disorder marked by debilitating fatigue. It not well understood and its diagnosis is controversial. It is very important therefore that significant clinical features are investigated. Visual symptoms in ME represent a group of distinct, quantifiable, clinical features that could significantly improve diagnosis and provide insights into underlying pathology.
The purpose of the present study was therefore to explore the effect of ME on spatial windows of visibility using the spatial contrast sensitivity function. Contrast sensitivity was determined for stationary luminance-defined sinusoidal gratings spanning a five-octave range of spatial frequencies (0.5 to 16 c/deg) in a group of 19 individuals with ME and a group of 19 matched (age, gender) controls.
Compared to controls, the ME group exhibited a restricted spatial window of visibility for encoding stimulus contrast. This was characterised principally by a contrast sensitivity deficit at lower spatial frequencies and a narrower bandwidth. Our findings suggest that contrast sensitivity deficits may represent a visual marker of ME, and be indicative of abnormal visual processing at the level of the retina and in the cortical and subcortical visual pathways
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