Perceptual suppression mechanisms in healthy ageing
AffiliationOptometry and Vision Sciences
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2017 Dr. Kabilan Pitchaimuthu
Healthy ageing alters contextual spatial interactions such as centre surround contrast suppression and spatial suppression of motion discrimination. However, the exact neural mechanisms that underlie age related changes to contextual spatial interactions are still elusive. The body of work reported in this thesis explored the perceptual mechanisms behind altered contextual spatial interactions in younger and older adults using psychophysical and neuroimaging methods. Experiment 1 investigated the strength of foveal centre surround contrast suppression under intraocular and interocular viewing for two stimulus durations (40 ms and 200 ms) in younger and older adults. Foveal intraocular center surround contrast suppression decreased with longer stimulus duration whereas interocular surround suppression did not, suggesting contributions from separate mechanisms to these forms of suppression. In addition, intraocular center surround contrast suppression was increased in older adults compared to younger adults; however, interocular suppression was similar in both groups. Experiment 2 studied the effect of orientation of the surround grating in relation to the orientation of the centre grating (surround orientation effect) on centre surround contrast suppression under intraocular and interocular viewing in younger and older adults. Interocular and intraocular centre surround contrast suppression showed different surround orientation effect, and older adults demonstrated unaltered levels of surround orientation effect compared to younger adults under both intraocular and interocular viewing. Experiment 3 measured Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA, the principal inhibitory neurotransmitter of the adult brain) levels in visual cortex of younger and older adults using magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Visual cortical GABA levels were increased in older adults compared to younger adults. In addition, visual cortical Glx (combined estimate of glutamate - the principal excitatory neurotransmitter, and glutamine) levels were reduced in older adults compared to younger adults. Neither GABA levels nor Glx levels in visual cortex correlated with foveal centre surround contrast suppression. The final experiment of this thesis (Experiment 4) investigated the relationship between visual cortical GABA levels and performance on two visual tasks that are hypothesised to be mediated, at least in part, by GABAergic inhibition: spatial suppression of motion discrimination and binocular rivalry. Both younger and adults participated in this experiment as well. Increased visual cortical GABA levels were associated with prolonged binocular rivalry percept durations and reduced spatial suppression of motion discrimination. The experimental frameworks used in the thesis were based on our modern understanding of cortical circuits that are implicated in mediating centre surround contrast suppression, and a neuroimaging technique that could potentially link physiology with behaviour. The novel findings reported in thesis answered some of the important questions related to perceptual surround suppression in younger and older adults. The current findings suggested that healthy ageing differentially affects distinct forms of suppression arising at various levels of the visual pathway, and challenged prior assumptions regarding age related changes to GABA levels within the visual cortex and its association with centre surround contrast suppression and spatial suppression of motion discrimination.
Keywordsageing; surround suppression; intraocular; interocular; contextual interaction; dichoptic; binocular rivalry; GABA; inhibition; magnetic resonance spectroscopy, MEGA PRESS
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