Elderly drivers’ habits could give clues about schizophrenia, depression

January 26th, 2011 - 2:48 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Jan 26 (ANI): A study of why the elderly are not very good drivers could help scientists understand schizophrenia and depression.

The medial temporal visual area (MT) of a person’s brain is responsible for allowing humans to focus on foreground objects and ignore the background ones.

University of Rochester Professor Duje Tadin found that the inability of elderly drivers to ignore other cars or pedestrians is not necessarily a result of a reduced ability to perceive moving objects, but a heightened awareness of the backdrop against which these objects move.

The find could not only help the elderly drive better, but also help psychiatrists better understand psychological conditions like depression and schizophrenia.

Earlier studies have shown that older people, as well as those with psychological conditions such as schizophrenia and depression, are better at perceiving motion in the background.

Because the brain is spending its limited resources constantly paying attention to the unimportant motions of background objects, it has a harder time noticing the motions of smaller objects.

In their study, the researchers found that when the MT was inhibited, subjects had an easier time identifying the motion of large, background-like objects. These results indicate that an improperly functioning MT may be the cause behind better than normal perception of background motion in older adults.

The study is published in the Journal of Neuroscience on January 25. (ANI)

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