Older adults are often slower and less accurate than are younger adults in performing visual-search tasks, suggesting an age-related decline in attentional functioning. Age-related decline in attention, however, is not entirely pervasive. Visual search that is based on the observer’s expectations (i.e., top-down attention) is relatively preserved as a function of adult age. Neuroimaging research suggests that age-related decline occurs in the structure and function of brain regions mediating the visual sensory input, whereas activation of regions in the frontal and parietal lobes is often greater for older adults than for younger adults. This increased activation may represent an age-related increase in the role of top-down attention during visual tasks. To obtain a more complete account of age-related decline and preservation of visual attention, current research is beginning to explore the relation of neuroimaging measures of brain structure and function to behavioral measures of visual attention.
Keywords: visual perception, adult development, cognition, reaction time, neuroimaging