Author(s): Dowiasch S, Marx S, Einhuser W, Bremmer F
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Abstract The effects of aging on eye movements are well studied in the laboratory. Increased saccade latencies or decreased smooth-pursuit gain are well established findings. The question remains whether these findings are influenced by the rather untypical environment of a laboratory; that is, whether or not they transfer to the real world. We measured 34 healthy participants between the age of 25 and 85 during two everyday tasks in the real world: (I) walking down a hallway with free gaze, (II) visual tracking of an earth-fixed object while walking straight-ahead. Eye movements were recorded with a mobile light-weight eye tracker, the EyeSeeCam (ESC). We find that age significantly influences saccade parameters. With increasing age, saccade frequency, amplitude, peak velocity, and mean velocity are reduced and the velocity/amplitude distribution as well as the velocity profile become less skewed. In contrast to laboratory results on smooth pursuit, we did not find a significant effect of age on tracking eye-movements in the real world. Taken together, age-related eye-movement changes as measured in the laboratory only partly resemble those in the real world. It is well-conceivable that in the real world additional sensory cues, such as head-movement or vestibular signals, may partially compensate for age-related effects, which, according to this view, would be specific to early motion processing. In any case, our results highlight the importance of validity for natural situations when studying the impact of aging on real-life performance.
This article was published in Front Hum Neurosci
and referenced in Journal of Physiotherapy & Physical Rehabilitation