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PURPOSE:Optical filters and tints manipulating short-wavelength light (sometimes called 'blue-blocking' or 'blue-attenuating' filters) are used in the management of a range of ocular, retinal, neurological and psychiatric disorders. In many cases, the only available quantification of the optical effects of a given optical filter is the spectral transmittance, which specifies the amount of light transmitted as a function of wavelength. METHODS:We propose a novel physiologically relevant and retinally referenced framework for quantifying the visual and non-visual effects of these filters, incorporating the attenuation of luminance (luminous transmittance), the attenuation of melanopsin activation (melanopsin transmittance), the colour shift, and the reduction of the colour gamut (gamut reduction). Using these criteria, we examined a novel database of spectral transmittance functions of optical filters (n = 121) which were digitally extracted from a variety of sources. RESULTS:We find a large diversity in the alteration of visual and non-visual properties. The spectral transmittance properties of the examined filters vary widely, in terms of shapes and cut-off wavelengths. All filters show relatively more melanopsin attenuation than luminance attenuation (lower melanopsin transmittance than luminous transmittance). Across the data set, we find that melanopsin transmittance and luminous transmittance are correlated. CONCLUSIONS:We suggest that future studies and examinations of the physiological effects of optical filters quantify the visual and non-visual effects of the filters beyond the spectral transmittance, which will eventually aid in developing a mechanistic understanding of how different filters affect physiology. We strongly discourage comparing the downstream effects of different filters on, e.g. sleep or circadian responses, without considering their effects on the retinal stimulus.

Original publication




Journal article


Ophthalmic & physiological optics : the journal of the British College of Ophthalmic Opticians (Optometrists)

Publication Date





459 - 468


Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.