Aging Impairs Audiovisual Facilitation of Object Motion Within Self-Motion

in Multisensory Research
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The presence of a moving sound has been shown to facilitate the detection of an independently moving visual target embedded among an array of identical moving objects simulating forward self-motion (Calabro et al., Proc. R. Soc. B, 2011). Given that the perception of object motion within self-motion declines with aging, we investigated whether older adults can also benefit from the presence of a congruent dynamic sound when detecting object motion within self-motion. Visual stimuli consisted of nine identical spheres randomly distributed inside a virtual rectangular prism. For 1 s, all the spheres expanded outward simulating forward observer translation at a constant speed. One of the spheres (the target) had independent motion either approaching or moving away from the observer at three different speeds. In the visual condition, stimuli contained no sound. In the audiovisual condition, the visual stimulus was accompanied by a broadband noise sound co-localized with the target, whose loudness increased or decreased congruent with the target’s direction. Participants reported which of the spheres had independent motion. Younger participants showed higher target detection accuracy in the audiovisual compared to the visual condition at the slowest speed level. Older participants showed overall poorer target detection accuracy than the younger participants, but the presence of the sound had no effect on older participants’ target detection accuracy at either speed level. These results indicate that aging may impair cross-modal integration in some contexts. Potential reasons for the absence of auditory facilitation in older adults are discussed.

Aging Impairs Audiovisual Facilitation of Object Motion Within Self-Motion

in Multisensory Research

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Figures

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    Schematic of experimental trials and task: Observers viewed nine spheres that moved towards them simulating looming motion for 1 s. One of the nine spheres contained independent motion, either looming or receding relative to the other spheres. In the audiovisual trials, a sound was also presented. The sound was co-localized with the target and its loudness increased for a looming target and decreased for receding target. The response screen required observers to identify the target in a four-alternative forced choice task.

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    The left panel shows average perceived location (deg) plotted against presented azimuth location for individual participants (dashed lines). The right panel shows total sensitivity (d) for discriminating the sound locations. Small circle and square symbols show individual younger and older participants’ data, respectively. Group averages and their bootstrapped 95% CI are shown in larger symbols offset to the right.

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    Accuracy (top panels) and response times (bottom panels) for reporting the target object in the visual (black) and audiovisual (grey) conditions for younger (circles) and older (squares) participants across six speeds (negative values correspond to receding motion and positive values correspond to looming motion). Large symbols represent group averages and small symbols show individual data points. Error bars show the bootstrapped 95% CIs of the group averages.

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    Difference scores of target detection accuracy in the audiovisual and visual conditions are shown for all individual participants for all speeds and directions. Red square symbols show data for receding targets and blue diamond symbols show data for looming targets. Crossbars show group averages and their bootstrapped 95% CI. The grey-scale fill colour (PC V) shows the proportion correct in the visual condition.

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