Why Elderly Drive Badly: They See Too Much

The brain loses its ability to filter out background visuals: Study
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 26, 2011 7:16 PM CST
Updated Jan 29, 2011 7:47 AM CST

(Newser) – One of the knocks against elderly drivers is that, like Mr. Magoo, they just can't see what's in front of them. A new neurological study flips the premise and suggests that they see too much, reports Scientific American. The theory goes like this: Our brain takes in so much visual data that it's developed a "spatial suppression" filter to help us ignore unimportant large-scale visuals in the background and focus on smaller ones in the foreground. As people age, however, this filter degrades.

That means an elderly driver's brain might be bombarded with visuals from near and far, and thus "less efficient at focusing on the important stuff—such as a person dashing across the road," explains SA. The University of Rochester research seems also to apply to the visual patterns of those with schizophrenia or depression, who often "exhibit better-than-normal motion perception of large patterns coupled with normal perception of small, moving stimuli." If scientists can get a better handle on the parts of the brain involved, treatments for improved vision might one day be available.
(Read more elderly stories.)

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