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Bao N. Nguyen, Allison M. McKendrick; Foveal and parafoveal contrast suppression are different: Mechanisms revealed by the study of healthy aging. Journal of Vision 2016;16(3):10. doi: 10.1167/16.3.10.
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© 2017 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
Visual contextual effects enable inference regarding neural mechanisms of cortical function, principally because of similarities between the stimulus properties influencing human perception and those modifying primate visual cortical neural responses. Most neurophysiology assesses nonfoveal cellular function and circuitry, while most human studies are foveal. Here we use parafoveal stimuli to measure center-surround perception of contrast in older and younger adults. We measure the influence of both near and far surround because neurophysiology demonstrates different circuitry for these areas. Contrast suppression from the near surround was reduced in older observers, while that from the far surround was intact. Our results are consistent with reduced intracortical inhibition with age and normal extrastriate feedback. Interestingly, in the same older observers, foveal surround suppression of contrast was strengthened relative to younger adults, demonstrating a clear distinction between foveal and parafoveal center-surround behavior. We assume that underlying alterations in cortical neurotransmitter levels with age should not differ substantially between the areas of visual cortex representing foveal and near foveal regions. Consequently, our results suggest regional differences in center-surround circuitry. That older adults have varied contextual effects of visual contrast as a function of retinal eccentricity suggests complex effects of aging on scene and object perception.
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