The perception and control of self-movement relies on visual cues derived from the radial patterns of optic flow and from the relative motion of objects within view. Optic flow and object motion processing impairments might limit independent self-movement in a manner like that seen in ageing and in Alzheimer's disease. We used optic flow and object motion stimuli to simulate aspects of the self-movement scene. Stimulus salience was individualized to present comparable stimuli to young [n = 18; mean age = 25.6, standard error of measurement (SEM) = 1.4], middle-aged (n = 17; mean age = 53.9, SEM = 0.9), older adult (n = 30; mean age = 72.4, SEM = 1.4) and Alzheimer's disease (n = 15; mean age 75.2, SEM = 1.6) subjects. All groups were tested in two tasks: pointing towards the simulated direction of self-movement and steering the simulated self-movement towards a straight-ahead direction. We found that young and middle-aged subjects show similar pointing accuracy using either optic flow or object motion, but steer better with object motion than with optic flow. Older adult subjects show better performance with optic flow than object cues for pointing (P < 0.001), but their performance improves when both cues are combined in the pointing (P = 0.012) and steering (P = 0.02) tasks. Alzheimer's disease patients show poorer performance with optic flow and object motion than all other groups and do not benefit from the combined presentation of cues for either pointing or steering. We conclude that ageing and Alzheimer's disease are associated with distinct profiles of visual processing deficits that limit the ability to use optic flow and object motion to perceive and control self-movement.
Keywords: ageing; Alzheimer's disease; optic flow; pointing; steering
Journal Article. 9503 words. Illustrated.
Subjects: Neurology ; Neuroscience
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