The sources of the reduced fixation stability exhibited by patients with central vision loss in the light are relatively well understood, but we have no information on how they control eye position in complete darkness, in the absence of visual error signals. We therefore explored the effect of visual feedback on eye position stability by testing patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and controls with normal vision in the light and in complete darkness. Nine patients (ages 67 to 92 years) and 16 controls (ages 16 to 74 years) were tested binocularly in the light and in complete darkness while remembering the location of a now invisible target. Binocular eye position was recorded with a video-based eye tracker. Results show that eye position stability both in the light and in the dark is worse for patients than for controls and that, for the two groups, eye position stability in the dark is, on average, 5.9 times worse than in the light. Large instability of fixation in patients with AMD was found even in absolute darkness when the scotoma cannot impair vision. These data reflect permanent changes in the oculomotor reference of patients with AMD.
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