Most previous studies have shown static vernier acuity for high-contrast targets to be largely unaffected by aging; those examining adult age differences on oscillatory displacement thresholds have consistently reported marked age deficits. The goals of this study were to (1) measure the age deficit on oscillatory discrimination beyond that attributable to any change in spatial discrimination by using the same target configuration for both task types and (2) determine whether an age-related change in the contrast response of the visual system contributes to age differences on static or oscillatory discrimination.
The displacement thresholds of young and old observers for a vernier task configuration were determined at two target contrast levels (0.08 and 0.64) for static and oscillating targets (2 and 6 Hz)
No age differences were seen on static displacement thresholds at either high or low contrast. A marked age deficit that emerged when oscillation was increased was unrelated to target contrast or observer contrast sensitivity.
Age-related declines in oscillatory discrimination beyond those attributable to spatial discrimination do not appear to be attributable to optical factors nor to a decline in the contrast response of the senescent visual system. These findings are discussed in terms of a functional decline in the magnocellular pathway, or “neural entropy,” possibly due to random cell loss.
Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, Canada (DWK), Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, Canada (JCC), Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, Canada (PB), Telus Corporation, Vancouver, Canada (LL)
Vision & Aging Lab, PACE Program
Department of Psychology
University of Calgary
2500 University Drive N.W.
Calgary, AB T2N 1N4
Received August 21, 2000;
revision received April 16, 2001.