The development of spatial frequency discrimination
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We compared thresholds for discriminating spatial frequency for children aged 5, 7, and 9 years, and adults at two baseline spatial frequencies (1 and 3 cpd). In Experiment 1, the minimum change from baseline necessary to detect a change in spatial frequency from either baseline decreased with age from 34% in 5-year-olds to 11% in 7-year-olds, 8% in 9-year-olds, and 6% in adults. The data were best fit by an exponential function reflecting the rapid improvement in thresholds between 5 and 7 years of age and more gradual improvement thereafter (r(2) = 0.50, p < 0.0001). In Experiment 2, 5-year-olds' thresholds were higher than those of adults, even when memory demands were eliminated by presenting the two spatial frequencies side by side for an unlimited time. The pattern of development for sensitivity to spatial frequency (this study) resembles those for the development of sensitivity to orientation (T. L. Lewis, S. E. Chong, & D. Maurer, 2009) and contrast (D. Ellemberg, T. L. Lewis, C. H. Lui, & D. Maurer, 1999). The similar patterns are consistent with theories of common underlying mechanisms in primary visual cortex (A. Vincent & D. Regan, 1995; W. Zhu, M. Shelley, & R. Shapley, 2008) and suggest that those mechanisms continue to develop throughout childhood.
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