11.12.2015

Eyes "process slower in older people"

Eyes "process slower in older people"

It is a well-known fact that the majority of people will experience some form of vision deterioration as they grow older, due to a wide range of conditions, ranging from cataracts to age-related macular degeneration.

However, new research has shown that the way in which the eyes work and the speed in which they process things they see may also slow down as we get older.

According to a recent study published in the Elsevier"s Cortex, older people are far more likely to notice a single object that is part of a group before registering the whole group.

Researchers working on the study give the example of looking at a single tree in a forest, claiming that older people are more likely to register the nearest tree first before then realising that it is part of collective woodland – something which is not as much of an issue in younger people.

According to the specialists, these age-related changes are correlated with a specific aspect of visual perception, known as Gestalt perception, which was explored by lead authors Markus Staudinger, Gereon Fink, Clare Mackey and Silke Lux.

They noted that Gestalt perception, which is the brain"s tendency to perceive many similar smaller objects as being part of a bigger entity, is directly related to this new discovery, as well as the Gestalt principle of good continuation – which they explained is the mind"s preference for continuous shapes.

In the study, participants were shown groups of letters arranged in a pattern so that they formed a larger letter and asked if a letter appeared on the "local" or "global", with the number of small letters forming the pattern then varied.

Normally, the smaller the letters in a pattern are, the easier it is to perceive the larger letter, something observed in the younger group of study participants but not the older ones.

According to the scientists, the findings are evidence that changes in attention such as the ability to concentrate on a particular thing and ignoring others is correlated to healthy aging.  

by Alexa Kaczka


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