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Menaka S. Malavita, Trichur R. Vidyasagar, Allison M. McKendrick; The Effect of Aging and Attention on Visual Crowding and Surround Suppression of Perceived Contrast Threshold. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2017;58(2):860-867. doi: 10.1167/iovs.16-20632.
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The purpose of this study was to study how, in midperipheral vision, aging affects visual processes that interfere with target detection (crowding and surround suppression) and to determine whether the performance on such tasks are related to visuospatial attention as measured by visual search.
We investigated the effect of aging on crowding and suppression in detection of a target in peripheral vision, using different types of flanking stimuli. Both thresholds were also obtained while varying the position of the flanker (placed inside or outside of target, relative to fixation). Crowding thresholds were also estimated with spatial uncertainty (jitter). Additionally, we included a visual search task comprising Gabor stimuli to investigate whether performance is related to top-down attention. Twenty young adults (age, 18–32 years; mean age, 26.1 years; 10 males) and 19 older adults (age, 60–74 years; mean age, 70.3 years; 10 males) participated in the study.
Older adults showed more surround suppression than the young (F[1,37] = 4.21; P < 0.05), but crowding was unaffected by age. In the younger group, the position of the flanker influenced the strength of crowding, but not the strength of suppression (F[1,39] = 4.11; P < 0.05). Crowding was not affected by spatial jitter of the stimuli. Neither crowding nor surround suppression was predicted by attentional efficiency measured in the visual search task. There was also no significant correlation between crowding and surround suppression.
We show that aging does not affect visual crowding but does increase surround suppression of contrast, suggesting that crowding and surround suppression may be distinct visual phenomena. Furthermore, strengths of crowding and surround suppression did not correlate with each other nor could they be predicted by efficiency of visual search.
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