Previous studies have reported a connection between impaired visual acuity and cognitive function in the elderly. Digging deeper into this association, new research suggests older people with reduced stereopsis may have more directional errors on the antisaccade task, indicating poor inhibitory control.

The investigators tested for inhibition using the antisaccade task in older adults with normal or reduced stereopsis and in a group of young individuals with transiently reduced stereopsis. They found that older adults with reduced stereopsis made significantly more errors on the antisaccade task compared with those with normal stereopsis. Specifically, the study reported a significant correlation between reduced stereoacuity and antisaccade errors. However, this association wasn’t observed in the younger participants.

“Therefore, it is unlikely that stereopsis is directly influencing inhibitory control,” the researchers wrote in their paper. Instead, this marker could be indicative of a common age-related disruption in neural function that affects both the processing of binocular disparity and other aspects of executive function, specifically inhibition, they explained.

These results have implications for future research investigating the interdependence of vision and cognitive function. Specifically, acuity has been the most commonly used measure of visual function in large population studies examining its relation to cognition; however, subsequent investigations should consider assessing for stereoacuity, which seems to be more closely associated with executive dysfunction, the researchers suggested.

“The findings from the current study improve our understanding of the nature of the interaction between sensory and executive functions, and this knowledge could be used to develop better diagnostic and prognostic tools to monitor older individuals at risk of cognitive decline,” the investigators concluded.

Lin G, Al Ani R, Nieschwiej-Szwedo E. Age-related deficits in binocular vision are associated with poorer inhibitory control in healthy older adults. Front Neurosci. 2020;14:605267.