Behavioural training boosts vision in older adults

A week of behavioural intervention can help improve the vision of older adults affected by age-related declining contrast sensitivity which is critical for many real life tasks such as driving at night, new research has found.

IANS| Last Updated: Mar 10, 2015, 12:19 PM IST

New York: A week of behavioural intervention can help improve the vision of older adults affected by age-related declining contrast sensitivity which is critical for many real life tasks such as driving at night, new research has found.

Contrast sensitivity is a factor in the ability to detect and resolve details in low light and it is associated with increased risk of fall and vehicle crashes.

"The visual system among older adults is very plastic and has the ability to improve, and that perceptual learning (behavioural training) can be used to counteract age-related declines in contrast sensitivity," said G. John Andersen, professor of psychology at University of California, Riverside.

"These improvements are the result of changes in sensory processing and not due to optical efficiency of the eye," said Andersen.

The team tested students and individuals age 65 and older using low-contrast stimuli on a computer screen.

Older and younger adults were trained over seven days using a forced-choice orientation-discrimination task with stimuli that varied in contrast with multiple levels of additive noise.

Contrast sensitivity among older adults in the study improved so much that their performance was not statistically different from that of younger adults before training, Andersen said. Both groups experienced significant improvement in visual acuity as well.

"We did not expect that at all," Andersen said.

These findings indicate that behavioural interventions can greatly improve visual performance for older adults.

The study appeared in the journal Psychological Science.