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Karin S. Pilz, Louisa Miller, Hannah C. Agnew; Motion coherence and direction discrimination in healthy aging. Journal of Vision 2017;17(1):31. doi: 10.1167/17.1.31.
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© 2017 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
Perceptual functions change with age, particularly motion perception. With regard to healthy aging, previous studies mostly measured motion coherence thresholds for coarse motion direction discrimination along cardinal axes of motion. Here, we investigated age-related changes in the ability to discriminate between small angular differences in motion directions, which allows for a more specific assessment of age-related decline and its underlying mechanisms. We first assessed older (>60 years) and younger (<30 years) participants' ability to discriminate coarse horizontal (left/right) and vertical (up/down) motion at 100% coherence and a stimulus duration of 400 ms. In a second step, we determined participants' motion coherence thresholds for vertical and horizontal coarse motion direction discrimination. In a third step, we used the individually determined motion coherence thresholds and tested fine motion direction discrimination for motion clockwise away from horizontal and vertical motion. Older adults performed as well as younger adults for discriminating motion away from vertical. Surprisingly, performance for discriminating motion away from horizontal was strongly decreased. Further analyses, however, showed a relationship between motion coherence thresholds for horizontal coarse motion direction discrimination and fine motion direction discrimination performance in older adults. In a control experiment, using motion coherence above threshold for all conditions, the difference in performance for horizontal and vertical fine motion direction discrimination for older adults disappeared. These results clearly contradict the notion of an overall age-related decline in motion perception, and, most importantly, highlight the importance of taking into account individual differences when assessing age-related changes in perceptual functions.
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