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Jing Huang, Karl R. Gegenfurtner, Alexander C. Schütz, Jutta Billino; Age effects on saccadic adaptation: Evidence from different paradigms reveals specific vulnerabilities. Journal of Vision 2017;17(6):9. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/17.6.9.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Saccadic eye movements provide an opportunity to study closely interwoven perceptual, motor, and cognitive changes during aging. Here, we investigated age effects on different mechanisms of saccadic plasticity. We compared age effects in two different adaptation paradigms that tap into low- and high-level adaptation processes. A total of 27 senior adults and 25 young adults participated in our experiments. In our first experiment, we elicited adaptation by a double-step paradigm, which is designed to trigger primarily low-level, gradual motor adaptation. Age groups showed equivalent adaptation of saccadic gain. In our second experiment, adaptation was induced by a perceptual task that emphasizes high-level, fast processes. We consistently found no evidence for age-related differences in low-level adaptation; however, the fast adaptation response was significantly more pronounced in the young adult group. We conclude that low-level motor adaptation is robust during healthy aging but that high-level contributions, presumably involving executive strategies, are subject to age-related decline. Our findings emphasize the need to differentiate between specific aging processes in order to understand functional decline and stability across the adult life span.
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