Visual function and cognitive speed of processing mediate age-related decline in memory span and fluid intelligence

Olivio J. Clay, Jerri D. Edwards, Lesley A. Ross, Ozioma Okonkwo, Virginia G. Wadley, David L. Roth, Karlene K. Ball

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Objectives: To evaluate the relationship between sensory and cognitive decline, particularly with respect to speed of processing, memory span, and fluid intelligence. In addition, the common cause, sensory degradation and speed of processing hypotheses were compared. Method: Structural equation modeling was used to investigate the complex relationships among age-related decrements in these areas. Results: Cross-sectional data analyses included 842 older adult participants (M = 73 years). After accounting for age-related declines in vision and processing speed, the direct associations between age and memory span and between age and fluid intelligence were nonsignificant. Older age was associated with visual decline, which was associated with slower speed of processing, which in turn was associated with greater cognitive deficits. Discussion: The findings support both the sensory degradation and speed of processing accounts of age-related, cognitive decline. Furthermore, the findings highlight positive aspects of normal cognitive aging in that older age may not be associated with a loss of fluid intelligence if visual sensory functioning and processing speed can be maintained.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)547-566
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Aging and Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Fluid intelligence
  • Memory span
  • Processing speed
  • Visual function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Visual function and cognitive speed of processing mediate age-related decline in memory span and fluid intelligence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this