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Graeme J. Kennedy, Srimant P. Tripathy, Brendan T. Barrett; Early age-related decline in the effective number of trajectories tracked in adult human vision. Journal of Vision 2009;9(2):21. doi: 10.1167/9.2.21.
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Human performance in many visual and cognitive tasks declines with age, the rate of decline being task dependent. Here, we used a multiple-object tracking (MOT) task to provide a clear demonstration of a steep cognitive decline that begins relatively early in adult life. Stimuli consisted of 8 dots that moved along linear trajectories from left to right. At the midpoint of their trajectories, a certain number of dots, D (1, 2 or 3), deviated either clockwise or counter-clockwise by a certain magnitude (57°, 38° or 19°); the task for observers was to identify the direction of deviation. Percent correct responses were measured for 22 observers aged 18–62 years and were converted to effective numbers of tracked trajectories ( E) (S. P. Tripathy, S. Narasimhan, & B. T. Barrett, 2007). In 5 of the 7 conditions tested, there was a significant negative correlation between age and E, indicating an age-related decline in tracking ability. This decline was found to be equivalent to a mean performance drop of 16% per decade over the four decades of adulthood tested. Further analysis suggests that performance in this task starts to decline at around 30 years of age and falls off at the rate of approximately 20% every subsequent decade.
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