Preserved left and upper visual field advantages in older adults’ orienting of attention

Lateralization of the distribution of attentional function in the brain is asserted to lead to asymmetry in attentional allocation. This is expressed in the phenomenon of pseudoneglect, in which line and object bisection judgments indicate left visual field (and presumably right hemisphere) dominance. Several studies indicate that this asymmetry is not found in old age, which is taken as an indication of decline in attentional function with aging. We examined this assertion using a more comprehensive assay of attentional asymmetry. We contrasted the spatial distribution of older and younger adults’ visual attention using the Starry Night Task, a speeded visual search task in which targets must be located across a wide spatial distribution against a dynamic background of distracters. As expected, compared to younger adults, older adults’ response times were longer overall. However, we found that older adults exhibited a graded left visual field advantage, even more distinctly than did younger adults. Additionally, older adults exhibited a graded upper visual field advantage equivalent to that of younger adults. These results indicate that aging may not necessarily compromise basic patterns of distribution of spatial attention. They do not support claims of aging-related loss of attentional lateralization.

Authors: Erel H, Ronen T, Freedman G, Deouell LY, Levy DA.
Year of publication: 2019
Journal: Experimental Gerontology

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“Working memory”