Foveal and parafoveal increment thresholds were measured for 50 observers (12-88 years of age) under conditions that isolated retinal mechanisms dominated by short- (S-), middle- (M-), or long- (L-) wave-sensitive cones. Thresholds were obtained on the plateau of the threshold-versus-intensity function of each isolated mechanism and were referred to the retina by using individual measurements of ocular media and macular pigment density. Age-related increases in foveal thresholds, specified at the retina, were found for all three cone mechanisms. Parallel sensitivity losses for each cone mechanism were also observed at 4 degrees and 8 degrees in the temporal retina. A significant positive correlation was found between foveal macular pigment density and the S-cone, but not the M- and L-cone, log sensitivity difference (0 degrees-8 degrees) specified at the retina. This relation is expected from the hypothesis that the macular pigment protects the photoreceptors from senescent losses in sensitivity. However, because this result is independent of age, it is interpreted as being due to local gain changes resulting from differential filtering of incident light by the macular pigment between the fovea and the parafovea.