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Renee Karas, Allison M. McKendrick; Aging alters surround modulation of perceived contrast. Journal of Vision 2009;9(5):11. doi: 10.1167/9.5.11.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
It is well established that many visual functions deteriorate with age. Perhaps counter-intuitively, a recent study revealed that older people actually require less time to discriminate the direction of motion of large, high contrast moving stimuli than young adults (L. R. Betts, C. P. Taylor, A. B. Sekuler, & P. J. Bennett, 2005). L. R. Betts et al. (2005) proposed their finding as evidence for a reduction of cortical inhibitory function within the aging visual system. There is some neurophysiological support for this suggestion, as broadening of visual cortical neural tuning consistent with reduced inhibitory function has been observed in older animals. Here we explore the perceptual consequences of center-surround suppression within the healthy aging human visual system and report data from a center-surround contrast discrimination task (the Chubb contrast illusion). We predicted that older observers would demonstrate less center-surround suppression than younger subjects (consistent with reduced inhibition). Our data does not support this prediction as perceived contrast was altered more by surround modulation in the older than younger group (t(33) = 2.53, p = 0.02). A possible explanation for our findings is a decrease in perceptual brightness induction in the elderly group. Brightness induction relies on neural synchronization which might be disrupted by aging.
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