Connolly DM. Oxygenation state and twilight vision at 2438 m. Aviat Space Environ Med 2011; 82:2–8. Introduction: Under twilight viewing conditions, hypoxia, equivalent to breathing air at 3048 m (10,000 ft), compromises low contrast acuity, dynamic contrast sensitivity, and chromatic sensitivity. Selected past experiments have been repeated under milder hypoxia, equivalent to altitude exposure below 2438 m (8000 ft), to further define the influence of oxygenation state on mesopic vision. Methods: To assess photopic and mesopic visual function, 12 subjects each undertook three experiments using the Contrast Acuity Assessment test, the Frequency Doubling Perimeter, and the Color Assessment and Diagnosis (CAD) test. Experiments were conducted near sea level breathing 15.2% oxygen (balance nitrogen) and 100% oxygen, representing mild hypobaric hypoxia at 2438 m (8000 ft) and the benefit of supplementary oxygen, respectively. Results: Oxygenation state was a statistically significant determinant of visual performance on all three visual parameters at mesopic, but not photopic, luminance. Mesopic sensitivity was greater with supplementary oxygen, but the magnitude of each hypoxic decrement was slight. Hypoxia elevated mesopic contrast acuity thresholds by ~4%; decreased mesopic dynamic contrast sensitivity by ~2 dB; and extended mean color ellipse axis length by approximately one CAD unit at mesopic luminance (that is, hypoxia decreased chromatic sensitivity). Conclusions: The results indicate that twilight vision may be susceptible to conditions of altered oxygenation at upper-to-mid mesopic luminance with relevance to contemporary night flying, including using night vision devices. Supplementary oxygen should be considered when optimal visual performance is mission-critical during flight above 2438 m (8000 ft) in dim light.
The peer-reviewed monthly journal, Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine (ASEM) provides contact with physicians, life scientists, bioengineers, and medical specialists working in both basic medical research and in its clinical applications. It is the most used and cited journal in its field. ASEM is distributed to more than 80 nations.