Aging alters our perception of time


© Freshidea - Fotolia

Researchers from the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada have found that elderly people find it more difficult to distinguishing the order of events than younger adults.

To arrive at this conclusion, the group of researchers led by Prof. Michael Barnett-Cowan from the Department of Kinesiology at the University set out to study the binding of multisensory events in the brain that occurs in a limited timeframe, known as the temporal binding window. The team asked a group of younger adults and older adults to perform specific perception tasks as part of the study. The participants were presented light and sound stimuli at the same time or at different times.

Results showed that the younger and older adults could determine whether the stimuli occurred simultaneously with similar levels of accuracy. However, when they were asked to say which appeared first, the light or the sound, older adults had more difficulty discriminating temporal order, showing that they had a wider temporal binding window. According to the researchers, poor performance concerning multisensory events can lead to inaccurate representations of the physical world, with poor decision-making or even dangerous behavior.

”Health professionals are able to address many changes in our vision and hearing as we age using corrective lenses and hearing aids, for example. But these interventions don’t help with changes in the brain’s ability to combine sensory information. If we can identify and address impaired timing of events in the elderly, we could potentially improve the quality of life, safety and independence for many older people,” explained Prof. Barnett-Cowan.

Source: MedicalXpress. Bedard G, et al. Impaired timing of audiovisual events in the elderly. Experimental Brain Research 2015 Oct 16.