Reduced sensitivity for visual textures affects judgments of shape-from-shading and step-climbing behaviour in older adults

Abstract

Falls on stairs are a major hazard for older adults. Visual decline in normal ageing can affect step-climbing ability, altering gait and reducing toe clearance. Here we show that a loss of fine-grained visual information associated with age can affect the perception of surface undulations in patterned surfaces. We go on to show that such cues affect the limb trajectories of young adults, but due to their lack of sensitivity, not that of older adults. Interestingly neither the perceived height of a step nor conscious awareness is altered by our visual manipulation, but stepping behaviour is, suggesting that the influence of shape perception on stepping behaviour is via the unconscious, action-centred, dorsal visual pathway.

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Acknowledgements

BC-J was supported by an Age UK Research into Ageing studentship. We thank Helen Jebbitt for her assistance with data collection.

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Correspondence to Andrew J. Schofield.

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Schofield, A.J., Curzon-Jones, B. & Hollands, M.A. Reduced sensitivity for visual textures affects judgments of shape-from-shading and step-climbing behaviour in older adults. Exp Brain Res 235, 573–583 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-016-4816-0

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Keywords

  • Vision
  • Texture
  • Shape-from-shading
  • Step climbing