Visual movement is a crucial source of information for separating objects from their backgrounds. A spider camouflaged against a branch, for example, instantly loses its invisibility once it starts moving. A friend you are trying to identify in a crowded airport terminal is more distinguishable as soon as she begins waving her hands.
Whereas the method of separating an object from a background is seemingly effortless, researchers do not understand how our visual system manages to quickly pick out and segregate moving objects from their backgrounds.
Based on new research from scientists at the University of Rochester, one reason human beings are good at discerning smaller moving objects in the foreground is that the brain turns into desensitized to the movement in the larger background. Conversely, when a person’s brain is more sensitive to background movement, the adverse trade-off is that she shall be less sensitive to smaller foreground objects. The analysis, revealed in the journal Nature Communications, might result in new training programs for elderly adults and patients with conditions such as schizophrenia, which has been linked to weaker movement segregation.
In order to check people’s capability to identify moving objects on a moving background, the researchers confirmed study participants moving textured patterns. Inside the textured background, there was a smaller patterned object moving in the direction opposite from the background. The members had been instructed to report either the location or the shape of the smaller patterned object.
Although the analysis reveals that the power to detect moving objects against a moving background decreases with age, the analysis also gives some excellent news for older adults.
The researchers found that older adults might train their brains to process movement more like younger adults by practicing visible segmentation of moving objects. Older individuals carried out the research activity for four weeks, with four periods per week, and have become faster at the process, narrowing the gap in efficiency with their younger counterparts. Surprisingly, the researchers discovered, the older individuals who underwent training didn’t, in fact, get better at seeing the smaller moving object; their capability to see the object was simply nearly as good because it was at the commencement of the training. What changed with training was that the older adults became less sensitive to the background movement, just like younger adults.