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Erica Barhorst, Kristina Rand, Sarah Creem-Regehr; Navigation and spatial memory for older adults with simulated low vision . Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):1373. doi: 10.1167/16.12.1373.
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Research suggests that spatial learning while navigating with severely degraded vision (simulated reduced acuity and contrast sensitivity) demands the use of limited cognitive resources for normally-sighted young adults (Rand, Creem-Regehr, & Thompson, 2015). In a series of studies, we examined how the same severely degraded vision during navigation influences spatial memory for healthy older adults (age 60+). In Study 1, normally-sighted older adult participants walked on novel real-world paths wearing goggles that simulated severely reduced visual acuity and contrast sensitivity or navigated with their normal vision, and were asked to remember the location of landmarks. At the end of each path, they pointed to target locations using a verbal reporting measure. Results suggest that participants performed significantly worse on the memory task (greater pointing error) in the low vision condition compared to their performance with normal vision, replicating previous work with young adults. In Study 2, we tested the hypothesis that navigating with severely degraded vision results in increased cognitive load, and that this cognitive load can be offset by providing physical guidance to the participant to reduce mobility monitoring. Normally sighted older adult participants walked the same four paths with degraded vision, either with guidance (holding onto the experimenter's arm) or without guidance. Preliminary results suggest that guidance improves spatial memory, showing reduced pointing error compared to the non-guidance condition. We will discuss possible accounts to explain the memory impairment at this severe level of visual impairment and propose future work exploring age differences in older adulthood and studies of individuals with clinical low vision.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016
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