Ageing elevates peripheral spatial suppression of motion regardless of divided attention

Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 2020 Mar;40(2):117-127. doi: 10.1111/opo.12674. Epub 2020 Feb 20.


Purpose: It is more difficult to perceive the direction of motion of larger, high contrast patterns than smaller, low contrast patterns due to spatial suppression. Spatial suppression of motion is considered important to the segmentation of moving objects in the visual environment. Previous studies have shown that such spatial suppression of motion is reduced in older adults in central vision, to the extent that older adults can have better sensitivity than younger adults for foveally presented stimuli. Our study was designed to explore whether spatial suppression of motion is similarly reduced for older adults in parafoveal regions and whether divided attention impacts on suppression strength because attention is known to impact on spatial interactions.

Methods: Twenty younger (19-34 years) and 18 older (61-77 years) adults completed a single task, where observers identified the direction of a drifting Gabor patch of variable size (σ of the Gaussian envelope = 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 4°) presented at 10 degrees of visual angle while observing a central fixation marker, and a dual task, where observers were required to divide their attention across two stimuli, the peripheral drifting Gabor patch and a central rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) stream.

Results: Older adults showed increased spatial suppression of motion relative to younger adults for both tasks (main effect of group: p < 0.001). Dividing attention elevated thresholds for both age groups to a similar extent (main effect of attention: p = 0.002), but did not specifically alter spatial interactions (group x attention interaction: p = 0.13).

Conclusions: Older adults require significantly longer than younger adults to correctly identify stimulus motion, and demonstrate increased spatial suppression of motion, in peripheral vision. When considered alongside previous evidence for reduced suppression for central fixation, our study provides evidence for substantial differences between foveal and parafoveal mechanisms of spatial suppression.

Keywords: ageing; centre-surround suppression; divided attention; motion perception; peripheral vision; spatial suppression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult