Linking cognitive and visual perceptual decline in healthy aging: The information degradation hypothesis

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Abstract

Several hypotheses attempt to explain the relation between cognitive and perceptual decline in aging (e.g., common-cause, sensory deprivation, cognitive load on perception, information degradation). Unfortunately, the majority of past studies examining this association have used correlational analyses, not allowing for these hypotheses to be tested sufficiently. This correlational issue is especially relevant for the information degradation hypothesis, which states that degraded perceptual signal inputs, resulting from either age-related neurobiological processes (e.g., retinal degeneration) or experimental manipulations (e.g., reduced visual contrast), lead to errors in perceptual processing, which in turn may affect non-perceptual, higher-order cognitive processes. Even though the majority of studies examining the relation between age-related cognitive and perceptual decline have been correlational, we reviewed several studies demonstrating that visual manipulations affect both younger and older adults' cognitive performance, supporting the information degradation hypothesis and contradicting implications of other hypotheses (e.g., common-cause, sensory deprivation, cognitive load on perception). The reviewed evidence indicates the necessity to further examine the information degradation hypothesis in order to identify mechanisms underlying age-related cognitive decline.

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