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Older people get the big picture faster, and they are less inhibited

y perform the task better.

"As we get older, it becomes harder to concentrate on one thing and ignore everything else," says Bennett. "It takes more effort to tune out distractions. We've seen it in cognition and speech studies, and now we see it in vision. Although we don't know if those are all linked, we think the visual effect is due to changes in the effectiveness of inhibitory neurotransmitters in the brain." Neurotransmitters are chemical substances that can modify the way in which brain cells talk to one another. Some neurotransmitters enhance brain signals, and others inhibit them.

The study, conducted in collaboration with PhD students Lisa Betts and Christopher Taylor, suggests that one type of inhibitory neurotransmitter may not have as much effect in old brains as in young brains. However, the researchers caution that although such a change makes older people perform better on this task, the same change likely leads to increased difficulties in a much wider range of tasks.

"It's critical to understand how ageing affects vision and the brain. If we can characterize what is happening to our brains as we age, we'll be in a better position to help seniors see better for longer," says Sekuler.


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Contact: Jane Christmas
chrisja@mcmaster.ca
905-525-9140 (x27988)
McMaster University
3-Feb-2005


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