Age-dependent distractor suppression across the vision and motor domain

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The ability to inhibit distracting information -distractor suppression- is a fundamental process for the visual and motor systems. While aging is typically linked to a general decline in cognitive processing, a specific impairment in distractor suppression is found during visual attention tasks. Despite this, the effect of aging on a human’s capacity to inhibit distracting information during a motor task is currently unknown. Therefore, we tested the ability of young and older adults to inhibit distracting information during a visual attention (global-local) and a motor (reaching) task. When faced with distractors, younger and older adults displayed significant behavioural impairments (accuracy and speed) across both tasks. However, these deficits were substantially enhanced in older adults. Intriguingly, the amount of distractor impairment observed within each participant was correlated across the visual and motor tasks, irrespective of age group. Thus, whilst all participants’ ability to inhibit distractors was correlated across visual and motor domain, older adults displayed a generalised distractor inhibition deficit. We propose that a shift from proactive to reactive control in older adults could explain such impairment. These results may have important implications regarding the ability of older adults to effectively deal with distractors during complex visuomotor tasks such as driving.
Original languageEnglish
Article number27
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2016


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