Age-Related Changes in the Allocation of Vertical Attention

Congratulations to Drs. Heilman and Williamson on the publication of “Age-Related Changes in the Allocation of Vertical Attention” in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society August edition.


Objectives: Healthy individuals often have a leftward and upward attentional spatial bias; however, there is a reduction of this leftward bias with aging. The right hemisphere mediates leftward spatial attention and age-related reduction of right hemispheric activity may account for this reduced leftward bias. The right hemisphere also appears to be responsible for upward bias, and this upward bias might reduce with aging. Alternatively, whereas the dorsal visual stream allocates attention downward, the ventral stream allocates attention upward. Since with aging there is a greater atrophy of the dorsal than ventral stream, older participants may reveal a greater upward bias. The main purpose of this study was to learn if aging influences the vertical allocation of spatial attention.

Methods: Twenty-six young (17 males; mean age 44.62±2.57 years) and 25 healthy elderly (13 males; mean age 72.04±.98 years), right-handed adults performed line bisections using 24 vertical lines (24 cm long and 2 mm thick) aligned with their midsagittal plane.

Results: Older adults had a significantly greater upward bias than did younger adults.

Conclusions: Normal upward attentional bias increases with aging, possibly due to an age-related reduction of the dorsal attentional stream that is responsible for the allocation of downward attention. (JINS, 2018, 00, 1–4)