Age-related declines of stability in visual perceptual learning

Li Hung Chang, Kazuhisa Shibata, George J. Andersen, Yuka Sasaki, Takeo Watanabe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


One of the biggest questions in learning is how a system can resolve the plasticity and stability dilemma [1-3]. Specifically, the learning system needs to have not only a high capability of learning new items (plasticity) but also a high stability to retain important items or processing in the system by preventing unimportant or irrelevant information from being learned. This dilemma should hold true for visual perceptual learning (VPL), which is defined as a long-term increase in performance on a visual task as a result of visual experience [4-18]. Although it is well known that aging influences learning [19-24], the effect of aging on the stability and plasticity of the visual system is unclear. To address the question, we asked older and younger adults to perform a task while a task-irrelevant feature was merely exposed. We found that older individuals learned the task-irrelevant features that younger individuals did not learn, both the features that were sufficiently strong for younger individuals to suppress and the features that were too weak for younger individuals to learn. At the same time, there was no plasticity reduction in older individuals within the task tested. These results suggest that the older visual system is less stable to unimportant information than the younger visual system. A learning problem with older individuals may be due to a decrease in stability rather than a decrease in plasticity, at least in VPL.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2926-2929
Number of pages4
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number24
StatePublished - 15 Dec 2014


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