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Kathy J Sifrit, Alex Chaparro, Laszlo Stumpfhauser; Reversal of age-related deficits in visual attention: How long do the gains last?. Journal of Vision 2003;3(9):722. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/3.9.722.
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Purpose: Age-related decrements in visual attention have been shown to be predictive of crash risk in older drivers (Owsley et al., JAMA, 1998). The current study was conducted to determine whether training older adults on divided and selective visual attention tasks would result in improvements in visual attention, and if such improvements were obtained, whether they would be retained over time (18 months).
Methods: Participants were 12 older adults ranging in age from 61 to 84 years (mean = 71.5). Participants were screened for visual attention ability, and then completed a series of six training sessions, each lasting about 30 minutes, during which they performed divided and selective visual attention tasks. Following training, a post-test was conducted. Retention tests were performed an average of 18 months following the post-testing session.
Results: With training, the average divided attention score improved 27%, t(11) = 2.690, p = .021. The average selective attention score improved 42%, t(11) = 3.874, p = .003. The most dramatic improvements were obtained by participants whose initial performance was poorest.
The results of the retention tests showed that the majority of the improvements in visual attention were retained over the 18 month interval. Participants retained 95% of the improvement gained in divided attention and 86% of the improvement in selective attention.
Conclusions: Divided and selective visual attention skills have been shown to decline with normal aging. The results of this experiment indicate that this trend can be reversed through a brief training period and that these gains are long lasting.
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