UC Riverside Logo A novel method of reversing age-related decline in vision seems to have surfaced within the health world. According to a groundbreaking study by the University of California, Riverside and Boston University, perceptual training helps boost vision in the elderly population. The findings may be crucial for health and mobility of senior citizens.

A series of experiments were undertaken for ascertaining whether repeatedly performing certain visual tasks can enhance vision of adults older than 65 years. Throughout the training session’s benefits of perceptual training appeared. Age-related modifications in vision namely contrast sensitivity, dark adaptation, visual acuity, spatial vision, orientation, depth perception and motion perception may be common among elder adults. Scientists believe that earliest levels of visual processing can be improved by perceptual training.

G. John Andersen, UCR researcher and professor of psychology, explained, “We found that with just two days of training, in one-hour sessions, with difficult stimuli resulted in older subjects seeing as well as younger college-age subjects. The improvement was maintained for up to three months and the results were dependent on the location in the visual field where the stimuli were located – suggesting that the brain changed in early levels of visual cortex.”

A texture discrimination test was employed wherein subjects had to present stimuli consisting of a letter embedded in the center of a field in horizontally oriented lines. Also an array of peripherally located lines was oriented diagonally and formed either a vertical or horizontal object, always presented in the same quadrant. The task aimed to distinguish central letter and peripheral object. It was mentioned that betterment in vision did not appear because of practice or familiarity with the task.

The improved performance from perceptual training was probably maintained for a period of at least three months. Experts conclude that a high degree brain plasticity among the elderly demonstrates benefit of restoring vision due to normal aging. Perceptual learning seems to be a vital tool for enhancing health and well-being of an older population. It was pointed out that behavioral interventions possibly improve safety and quality of life with progression in age.

The study is published in the current online issue of the Journal of Vision.