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Age (Dordr). 2012 Feb;34(1):67-73. doi: 10.1007/s11357-011-9219-3. Epub 2011 Feb 19.

Age and distraction are determinants of performance on a novel visual search task in aged Beagle dogs.

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Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders, University of California, Irvine, 1226 Gillespie NRF, Irvine, CA 92697-4540, USA.


Aging has been shown to disrupt performance on tasks that require intact visual search and discrimination abilities in human studies. The goal of the present study was to determine if canines show age-related decline in their ability to perform a novel simultaneous visual search task. Three groups of canines were included: a young group (N = 10; 3 to 4.5 years), an old group (N = 10; 8 to 9.5 years), and a senior group (N = 8; 11 to 15.3 years). Subjects were first tested for their ability to learn a simple two-choice discrimination task, followed by the visual search task. Attentional demands in the task were manipulated by varying the number of distracter items; dogs received an equal number of trials with either zero, one, two, or three distracters. Performance on the two-choice discrimination task varied with age, with senior canines making significantly more errors than the young. Performance accuracy on the visual search task also varied with age; senior animals were significantly impaired compared to both the young and old, and old canines were intermediate in performance between young and senior. Accuracy decreased significantly with added distracters in all age groups. These results suggest that aging impairs the ability of canines to discriminate between task-relevant and -irrelevant stimuli. This is likely to be derived from impairments in cognitive domains such as visual memory and learning and selective attention.

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