We recently reported that efficient multisensory integration is affected by the ageing process. Specifically, we found that older persons were more susceptible to the auditory-flash illusion (Shams et al., 2000) than younger adults, even at relatively large stimulus onset asynchronies of more than 170 ms. Furthermore, susceptibility to this illusion increased with age (i.e., across individuals), and over time (i.e., over two years in the same individual). Our findings also suggest that inefficient multisensory integration is associated with balance maintenance and control: older persons with a history of falling were more susceptible to the auditory-flash illusion than their age-matched counterparts (Setti et al., 2011a) and more illusions were reported in older adults during a standing than a seated position. Importantly, we found no differences in sensory acuity between older adults with and without a history of falls, suggesting important interactions in the brain. We also found that during spatial navigation, older persons with a history of falling, relative to an age-matched cohort, failed to compensate for changes in their visual environment (full or blurred visual input) by adjusting their gait accordingly (Barrett et al., 2012). Our findings are suggestive of temporal interactions between the sensory systems in the brain (see e.g., Setti et al., 2011b), and not in the nature of the information encoded at the periphery, which underpin efficient perception-to-action in an older adult.
BarrettM.DohenyE.SettiA.MaguinnessC.ForanT. G.KennyR. A.NewellF. N. (2012). Reduced vision selectively impairs spatial updating during locomotion in fall prone older adults. Manuscript submitted for publication.
SettiA.BurkeK. E.KennyR. A.NewellF. N. (2011a).
Is inefficient multisensory processing associated with falls in older people?Exp. Brain Res.209,
SettiA.FinniganS.SobolewskiR.McLarenL.RobertsonI. H.ReillyR. B.KennyR. A.NewellF. N. (2011b).
Audiovisual temporal discrimination is less efficient with aging: an event-related potential study,