Forever young: Visual functions not affected or minimally affected by aging: A review

Jay M. Enoch, John S Werner, Gunilla Haegerstrom-Portnoy, Vasudevan Lakshminarayanan, Maurice Rynders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Six visual functions, once developed to adult levels of performance, have been noted to exhibit little or no alteration with aging (also see Appendix, Note 1). Those selected for more substantial discussions in this article are: (a) the Stiles-Crawford effect of the first kind (SCE-1), also known as the 'directional sensitivity of the retina'; (b) specific vernier acuity paradigms (including alignment of two lines one with the other, and two- and three-point vernier alignment tasks); and (c) color vision-related perceptual constancies. Each of these functions has rather different origins in the visual system. The SCE incorporates optical waveguide photoreceptor properties and has both physical and physiological origins; vernier acuity (one of the hyperacuities) is largely the result of neural data processing mechanisms; and the color vision-related effects have their origins in retinal neural processes. Descriptions of additional visual functions minimally affected by age are presented as well. This recent research raises many questions. How can these visual responses be so stable, when so many other visual responses show decrements with aging? What does it mean if anomalous responses within the more stable functions are encountered in individuals? Can these age-resistant functions be employed to help sustain other functions in aging individuals ? Are such relatively invariant functions limited to the visual system? Because of the stability of the reported responses with aging, these same relationships can be used as test controls for other studies of aging, and as benchmarks to distinguish between 'normal' aging and disease processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging


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