Importance of Multisensory Information for Successful Ageing
- Holding a conversation is influenced by seeing the other person, recognising their body and facial gestures, as well as hearing speech.
- Walking down a street involves seeing potential obstacles, listening to traffic sounds or conversation, perceiving our location in the environment, updating that as we walk, and maintaining body posture and balance.
- For example, during a conversation, the brain needs to have some way of combining the right sounds with the right sights in order to maintain a conversation. It then has to disregard any other visual or sound information that is irrelevant to that conversation.
Over the years, research in neuroscience has revealed that different regions of the brain are highly interconnected. In an exciting development of this work, some recent research has revealed that sensory regions of the brain, once considered unique and isolated from each other, are highly interconnected.In my research, we ask how does our brain achieve this task, and does the ability of the brain to perform multisensory perception depend on our age? Can the brain can learn to perform multisensory perception more efficiently as we age?
Want to keep
Trinity College Dublin online course,
Strategies for Successful Ageing
- For example, vision can influence the perception of the location of a sound. With this knowledge, we can develop a better understanding of how the older brain maintains, and even can improve, perception.
- As a consequence, all the information is perceived as belonging to the same object or event.
- Any information that arrives outside this time window will not be integrated and will be perceived as belonging to different objects or events.
- In young adults, we know that this time window is short and is usually between 70-100ms.
- Any sensory information that belongs outside this location is perceived as a different object or event.
- It is thought that this space window is about ~ 1 deg visual angle.
- We find that the time rule is extended in older adults. This means that the time window is much larger in older adults than it is in younger adults. This may be a way in which the older brain can compensate for the changes in the nature of the information it receives from the sensory organs.
- As a consequence of this extended time window, perception in older adults is more attuned to multisensory information rather than one sense on its own.
- However, we have also found evidence that this time window can be very large in some older adults. In particular, we found that older adults who fall have a time window that might be too large for perception to be maximally efficient, and therefore may be a risk for experiencing a fall.
- Do you find your multisensory abilities changing as you get older?
Fiona Newell is a Professor in Psychology at the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience in Dublin.
Strategies for Successful Ageing
Our purpose is to transform access to education.
We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.
We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.