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.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Aglioti S, DeSouza JFX, Goodale MA (1995) Size-contrast illusions deceive the eye but not the hand. Curr Biol 5:679–685
Baker SP, Harvey AH (1985) Fall injuries in the elderly. Clin Geriatr Med 1:501–512
Brainard DH, Pelli DG, Robson T (2002) Display characterization. In: Hornak J (ed) Encyclopaedia of imaging science and technology. Wiley, New York, pp 172–188
Chapman GJ, Hollands MA (2006) Evidence for a link between changes to gaze behaviour and risk of falling in older adults during adaptive locomotion. Gait Posture 24:288–294
Dakin SC, Mareschal I (2000) Sensitivity to contrast modulation depends on carrier spatial frequency and orientation. Vis Res 40:311–329
Dowswell T, Towner E, Cryer C, Jarvis S, Edwards P, Lowe P (1999) Accidental falls: fatalities and injuries. An examination of the data sources and review of the literature on preventive strategies. A report prepared for the Department of Trade and Industry. University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne
Elliot DB, Vale A, Whitaker D, Buckley JG (2009) Does my step look big is this? A visual illusion leads to safer stepping behaviour. PLoS One 4(2):e4577
Fuller GF (2000) Falls in the elderly. Am Fam Phys 61:2159–2168
Georgieva SS, Todd JT, Peeters R, Orban GA (2008) The extraction of 3D shape form texture and shading in the human brain. Cerebal Cotex 18:2416–2438
Habak C, Faubert J (2000) Larger effect of aging on the perception of higher-order stimuli. Vis Res 40:943–950
Hamel KA, Okita N, Higginson JS, Cavanah PR (2005) Foot clearance during stair descent: effects of age and illumination. Gait Posture 21:135–140
Heasley K, Bukley JG, Scally A, Twigg P, Elliot DB (2004) Stepping up to a new level: effects of blurring vision in the elderly. Investig Ophthalmol Vis Sci 45:2122–2128
Heasley K, Bukley JG, Scally A, Twigg P, Elliot DB (2005) Falls in older people: effects of Age and blurring vision on the dynamics of stepping. Investig Ophthalmol Vis Sci 46:3584–3588
Humphrey DG, Kramer AF (1997) Age differences in visual search for feature, conjunction, and triple-conjunction targets. Psychol Aging 12:704–717
Kingdom FAA (2008) Perceiving light versus material. Vision Res 48:2090–2105
Levitt H (1971) Transformed up-down methods in psychoacoustics. J Acoust Soc Am 70:1458–1471
Lovell PG, Gilchrist ID, Tolhurst DJ, Troscianko T (2009) Search for gross illumination discrepancies in images of natural objects. J Vis 9(1):1–14
Lu T-W, Chen H-L, Chen S-C (2006) Comparisons of the lower limb kinematics between young and older adults when crossing obstacles of different heights. Gait Posture 23:471–479
Nelson RC, Amin MA (1990) Falls in the elderly. Emerg Med Clin North Am 8:309–324
Owlsey C (2011) Aging and vision. Vis Res 51:1610–1622
Pentland A (1988) Shape from Shading; a theory about human perception. Spat Vis 4:165–182
Reed-Jones JG, Reed-Jones RJ, Hollands MA (2014) Is the size of the useful field of view affected by postural demands associated with standing and stepping? Neurosci Lett 566:27–31
Schofield AJ (2000) What does Second-order vision see in an image. Perception 29:1071–1086
Schofield AJ, Georgeson MA (1999) Sensitivity to modulations of luminance and contrast in visual white noise: separate mechanisms with similar behaviour. Vis Res 39:2697–2716
Schofield AJ, Heese G, Rock PB, Georgeson MA (2006) Local luminance amplitude modulates the interpretation of shape-from-shading in textured surfaces. Vis Res 46:3462–3482
Schofield AJ, Rock PB, Sun P, Jiang X, Georgeson MA (2010) What is second-order vision for? Discriminating illumination versus material changes. J Vis 10(9):2
Schofield AJ, Rock PB, Georgeson MA (2011) Sun and sky: does human vision assume a mixture of point and diffuse illumination when interpreting shape-from-shading? Vis Res 51(21–22):2317–2330
Scialfa CT (2002) The role of sensory factors in cognitive ageing research. Can J Exp Psychol 56:153–163
Simoneau GG, Cavanagh PR, Ulbrecht JS, Leibowitz HW, Tyrrell RA (1991) The influence of visual factors on fall-related kinematic variables during stair descent by older women. J Gerontol 46:M188–M195
Snowden R, Kavanagh E (2006) Motion perception in the ageing visual system: minimum motion, motion coherence, and speed discrimination thresholds. Perception 35:9–24
Sun P, Schofield AJ (2011) The efficacy of local luminance amplitude in disambiguating the origin of luminance signals depends on carrier frequency: further evidence for the active role of second-order vision in layer decomposition. Vis Res 51:496–507
Sutter A, Sperling G, Chubb C (1995) Measuring the spatial frequency selectivity of second-order texture mechanisms. Vis Res 35:915–924
Weale RA (1986) Aging and vision. Vis Res 26:1507–1512
Wilson HR, Ferrara VP, Yo C (1992) A psychophysically motivated model for two-dimensional motion perception. Vis Neurosci 9:79–97
Young WR, Wing AM, Hollands MA (2012) Influences of state anxiety on gaze behavior and stepping accuracy in older adults during adaptive locomotion. J Gerontol Ser B 67B:43–51
BC-J was supported by an Age UK Research into Ageing studentship. We thank Helen Jebbitt for her assistance with data collection.
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
About this article
Cite this article
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
- Step climbing