Exploring shape perception and step climbing in older adults

Climbing steps

A recently published paper has shown that a loss of visual information in older adults can affect the perception of surfaces.

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.

This paper demonstrates that a loss of fine-grained visual information in older adults can affect the perception of undulations in patterned surfaces. The paper also shows that such visual 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 are altered when the step’s appearance is manipulated, but stepping behaviour is: suggesting that the influence of shape perception on stepping behaviour is via the unconscious, action-centred, dorsal visual pathway.

Schofield, A.J., Curzon-Jones, B. & Hollands, M.A. Exp Brain Res (2016). Reduced sensitivity for visual textures affects judgments of shape-from-shading and step-climbing behaviour in older adults. doi:10.1007/s00221-016-4816-0 (IF = 2.06) http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00221-016-4816-0