Contrast sensitivity is critical for performing important tasks in life such as driving at night.
“The visual system among older adults is very plastic and has the ability to improve, and that perceptual learning (behavioral training) can be used to counteract age-related declines in contrast sensitivity,” said G. John Andersen, professor of psychology at University of California, Riverside.
“These improvements are the result of changes in sensory processing and not due to optical efficiency of the eye,” Andersen added.
Researchers tested both students and individuals age 65 and older using low-contrast stimuli on a computer screen.
Participants were trained over a period of seven days using a forced-choice orientation-discrimination task with stimuli that modified its contrast with multiple levels of additive noise.
The improvements in contrast sensitivity among older adults were so significant that their performance was not statistically different from that of younger adults before training, said Andersen. Equally impressive improvements occurred in visual acuity as well in both groups.
“We did not expect that at all,” Andersen said.
These findings indicate that behavioral interventions can greatly improve visual performance for older adults.
The study was published in the journal Psychological Science.