Just a weeks' worth of training can improve vision in older adults, according to new research in Psychological Science
, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The findings show that training boosted older adults' sensitivity to contrast and also their ability to see things clearly at close distances.
"Our research indicates that the visual system of older adults maintains a high degree of plasticity and demonstrates that training methods can be used to improve visual function,
" explains psychological scientist G. John Andersen of the University of California, Riverside who co-authored the study with graduate student Denton DeLoss and colleague Takeo Watanabe of Brown University.
Age-related declines in vision and visual processing are common and they can have serious negative consequences for the health and well-being of older adults. Older adults are particularly likely to show declines in their ability to process low-contrast visual stimuli -- for example, images that are grainy or not clearly defined. This decline hampers their ability to see visual detail, and can hinder their ability to process information that is important for both balance and driving.
While some age-related declines in vision can be traced to the eye itself, research suggests that decline in other aspects of vision are the result of changes in brain function,
and DeLoss and colleagues wondered whether a training program that involved repeated exposure to specific stimuli might counteract these changes in brain function.