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Isabelle Legault, Remy Allard, Jocelyn Faubert; Trained Older Observers Are Equivalent to Untrained Young Adults for 3D Multiple-Object-Tracking Speed Thresholds. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):288. doi: 10.1167/11.11.288.
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There is ample evidence that the normal aging process affects visual perceptual processing. This is particularly true when images or scenes are more complex (Faubert, 2002). For instance, it has been demonstrated that older observers are less sensitive to higher-order visual information (Habak & Faubert, 2000; Herbert et al., 2002). A perceptual-cognitive task of particular relevance is multiple object tracking or MOT (Pylyshyn, 1989), which has been shown to be less efficient with aging (Sekuler et al., 2008; Trick et al., 2005). MOT is a task where the observer is required to simultaneously track multiple elements among many and the ability of the observer is evaluated by the number of elements that the observer can track without making a mistake. A question remains as to whether older observers can be trained to regain this age-related loss. Such regain has been demonstrated for other visual perceptual tasks such as the “useful field of view” a technique that requires dual processing (Richards et al., 2006). We evaluated the performance of older and younger observers (speed thresholds) in a 3D virtual environment and demonstrated that indeed older observers were less efficient at MOT. However, after several weeks of training, the older group performed as well as the untrained younger group. This is encouraging given that most of us are required to process multiple moving elements in our real world (e.g. tracking people in crowds, sports, driving, etc.). Our results in conjunction with other studies demonstrates that the older brain remains plastic and training is a viable option for regaining certain perceptual-cognitive abilities that were lost by the normal aging process. Regaining such capacities may have an impact on individual confidence in performing daily activities and may consequently improve their general quality of life.
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