Aging Reduces Center-Surround Antagonism in Visual Motion Processing
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Discriminating the direction of motion of a low-contrast pattern becomes easier with increasing stimulus area. However, increasing the size of a high-contrast pattern makes it more difficult for observers to discriminate motion. This surprising result, termed spatial suppression, is thought to be mediated by a form of center-surround suppression found throughout the visual pathway. Here, we examine the counterintuitive hypothesis that aging alters such center-surround interactions in ways that improve performance in some tasks. We found that older observers required briefer stimulus durations than did younger observers to extract information about stimulus direction in conditions using large, high-contrast patterns. We suggest that this age-related improvement in motion discrimination may be linked to reduced GABAergic functioning in the senescent brain, which reduces center-surround suppression in motion-selective neurons.
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