Most aspects of visual cognition and memory are impaired in Alzheimer's Disease (AD), including the abilities to recognize and discriminate objects, faces, letters and words, and other patterns. Recent research indicates that deficits in basic vision are prevalent in this disorder and that visual deficits can strongly predict impairments in visual cognition, suggesting that basic vision may be a logical non-pharmacological point of intervention for improving cognition in AD.
The specific aims of the study include experimentally manipulating vision test variables and determining which manipulations most improve performance on tests of targeted cognitive capacities, which begins to address the long-term goal of enhancing cognitive performance in AD through the development of interventions aimed at restoring deficient visual capacities. A dual-site longitudinal study is proposed, using the strengths of the Alzheimer Centers of Boston and Cleveland to effect participant enrollment and data quality. The plan calls for testing 80 healthy elderly adults, 80 healthy young adults, and 160 demented patients, of whom 50% will be diagnosed with probable AD and 35 percent with Vascular Dementia. The remainder will include Lewy Body and Frontotemporal Dementias. Target contrast sensitivity and backward masking, visual capacities that show the most promise as launching points for cognitive intervention, are targeted in this research. A third capacity, motion perception, will be the subject of more preliminary investigation as a possible point of intervention. It is hypothesized that manipulations of stimulus contrast, luminance, and duration will result in significant improvement or even normalization of performance of demented patients on several tests of visual cognition, including letter and word reading, face discrimination and recognition, object naming, and complex pattern completion. For motion perception, the role of the direction of attention and prior adaptation to several types of motion signals will be studied. This research promises to yield data relevant to determining the dynamic cognitive capacities that might be amenable to improvement through manipulation of these motion perception variables. By bridging the findings of visual, cognitive, and clinical deficits to innovative and effective intervention, the project may provide new insights to improving cognition and hence the quality of life of normal elderly adults and especially individuals with AD and dementia of other etiologies.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Human Development and Aging Subcommittee 3 (HUD)
Program Officer
Buckholtz, Neil
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Boston University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code
Valenti, Denise A (2010) Alzheimer's disease: visual system review. Optometry 81:12-21
Cronin-Golomb, Alice; Gilmore, Grover C; Neargarder, Sandy et al. (2007) Enhanced stimulus strength improves visual cognition in aging and Alzheimer's disease. Cortex 43:952-66
Valenti, Denise A (2007) Neuroimaging of retinal nerve fiber layer in AD using optical coherence tomography. Neurology 69:1060
Gilmore, Grover C; Spinks, Ruth A; Thomas, Cecil W (2006) Age effects in coding tasks: componential analysis and test of the sensory deficit hypothesis. Psychol Aging 21:7-18
Gilmore, Grover C; Cronin-Golomb, Alice; Neargarder, Sandy A et al. (2005) Enhanced stimulus contrast normalizes visual processing of rapidly presented letters in Alzheimer's disease. Vision Res 45:1013-20
Neargarder, Sandy A; Cronin-Golomb, Alice (2005) Characteristics of visual target influence detection of change in naturalistic scenes in Alzheimer disease. Cogn Behav Neurol 18:151-8
Wong, Bonnie; Cronin-Golomb, Alice; Neargarder, Sandy (2005) Patterns of visual scanning as predictors of emotion identification in normal aging. Neuropsychology 19:739-49
Gilmore, Grover C; Groth, Karen E; Thomas, Cecil W (2005) Stimulus contrast and word reading speed in Alzheimer's disease. Exp Aging Res 31:15-33
Davidsdottir, Sigurros; Cronin-Golomb, Alice; Lee, Alison (2005) Visual and spatial symptoms in Parkinson's disease. Vision Res 45:1285-96
Neargarder, Sandy A; Stone, Erika R; Cronin-Golomb, Alice et al. (2003) The impact of acuity on performance of four clinical measures of contrast sensitivity in Alzheimer's disease. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 58:P54-62

Showing the most recent 10 out of 11 publications