Aging effects on intra- and inter-attribute spatial frequency information for luminance, color, and working memory

Jocelyn Faubert, Anne Bellefeuille
Vision Research 2002, 42 (3): 369-78
Visual working memory (VWM) for spatial frequency information was assessed in both young and older observers. In the first experiment we assessed the effect of a memory mask on a VWM task. We found no effect of mask on retention for either the young or older groups. This argues against the 'inhibition' hypothesis of aging in regards to visual processing, which suggests that the elderly should have difficulty to inhibit irrelevant information. We conclude that the suggestion of an inefficient inhibition process in aging derived from evidence obtained for higher-level WM tasks cannot be generalized to the discrimination of basic patterns in VWM. The second experiment focused on processing resources within VWM by assessing VWM for intra-attribute (color or luminance), and inter-attribute (color and luminance)-defined spatial frequency information. Results show that retention of spatial frequency information in VWM is robust for both the younger and older group regardless of the defining attribute. Thresholds were significantly higher in the inter-attribute condition, indicating increased processing demands for this task and suggesting that these attributes are initially processed in parallel. Older observers showed higher discrimination thresholds than young observers for all conditions indicating a deficit in perceptual abilities rather than in VWM for basic stimuli. The difference in thresholds for the older group was highest in the inter-attribute condition suggesting that older observers show more deficits on visual tasks with increased processing demands.

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