Understanding visual decline in older adults.
Hopefully we will all get old one day!
As we age our visual system becomes less effective. Some of these deficits occur within the brain and cannot be corrected with glasses. This project will study one such problem: the discrimination of shadows and shading from material changes. It is important to study this for the following reasons:
Shading provides cues to surface undulations. Confusing shading and material changes can lead undulating surfaces to appear flatter than they really are or cause flat surfaces to appear more undulated than they really are. Both errors could cause problems with gait, walking and climbing steps.
Shadows tell us something about the layout of objects, heights of steps etc, but also represent areas of space that can be safely walked through. So the miss identification of shadows as material changes could cause unnecessary deviations when walking and errors in judging step height - leading to falls.
Material changes tell us about transitions between different surface types and may indicate the likelihood of low level trip hazards. Both are important to walking and so incorrectly identifying them as shadows may be disadvantageous.
The increased activity of the elderly also extends to their use of computing and communication devices. Such devices are mostly designed for young users and they increasingly make use of complex visual interfaces to convey both a user friendly look and feel and critical information such as button state and window ordering / transitions. Shading in particular is often used to simulate the shape of objects via a process known as shape-from-shading. Again failures to correctly identify shading versus other changes could lead to user errors and frustration.
We also know that visual deficits can lead to problems with attention: they force people to pay more attention to the cues in question. Attention is needed for both walking and computer use so the visual problems may divide people’s attention; causing even greater problems for the individuals concerned.
The project will use established psychophysical methods and will involve testing elderly participants and young controls.
Strong applicants from the UK/EU will be considered for competitive internal funding rounds in 2015-16 and I am happy to assist good overseas applicants in their search for external funding.
How good is research at University of Birmingham in Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience?
FTE Category A staff submitted: 40.80
Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)
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