The University of Tennessee at Martin

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Dr. Ann Gathers

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

224 Brehm Hall



Visual Processing and Aging


The aging process involves many changes. Even the way we "see" the human face changes with age.   Based on age-related face processing changes and their social and communication implications, face processing in the senior adult population is of great interest to researchers.  This research project explores the cognitive mechanisms behind face processing in senior adults (60 years of age or greater) and young adults (18 -35 years of age) using computer-based behavioral experiments.  The identification of mechanistic derivations in face processing in the senior adult population is a necessary first step in developing effective treatments and interventions for aging-related deficits in face recognition that occur in dementia and Alzheimers Disease.


The study is divided into two sessions.


Session 1 is approximately 30-45 minutes and includes a brief medical history and as well as brief memory, mood, and visual screenings. Following the screenings, the participant will be introduced to the computer experiment through a training module. At the conclusion of the training, if the participant expresses continued interest in the project, a second session will be scheduled.


Session 2 is approximately 30 minutes. Session 2 includes a review of the computer experiment and four experimental computer tasks similar to the training. Breaks are provided as needed. At the conclusion of Session 2, each participant is presented with a "thank you" gift certificate to a local establishment.


All participation is voluntary. Participants can choose to withdraw from the study at any time. All information about the participant is confidential. Participants will be notified of any significant results or publications resulting from this study.




Boutet, I. & Faubert, J. (2006). Recognition of faces and complex objecs in younger and older adults. Memory and Cognition, 34(4), 854-864.


Di Lollo, V., Arnett, J.L., Kruk, R.V. (1982). Age-related changes in rate of visual information processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 8(2), 225-237.


Dror, I.E., & Kosslyn, S.M. (1994). Mental imagery and aging. Psychology and Aging, 9(1), 90-102.


Firestone, A., Turke-Browne, N.B., & Ryan, J.D. (2007). Age-related deficits in face recognition are related to underlying changes in scanning behavior. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, 14, 594-607.


Grady, C.L., McIntosh, A.R., Horwitz, B., & Rapoport, S.I. (2000). Age-related changes in the neural correlates of degraded and nondegraded face processing. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 17, 165-186.


Iidaka, T. et al.(2002). Age-related differences in the medial temporal lobe responses to emotonal faces as revealed by fMRI. Hippocampus, 12, 352-362.


Salthouse, T.A., (2004). What and When of Cognitive Aging. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13(1), 140-144.


Sharps, M.J. (1997). Category superiority effects in young and elderly adults. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 158(2), 165-171.


Thomas, C. et al. (2008). Reduction in white matter connectivity, revealed by diffusion tensor imaging, may account for age-related changes in face perception. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20(2), 268-284.


For more information, please contact:


Dr. Ann Gathers

Assistant Professor of Biology



Undergraduate Student Researchers


May 2009 American Psychiatric Association Poster Abstract



This research is supported in part by a 2009-2010 UT Martin College of Engineering and Natural Science (CENS) Undergraduate Research Grant.