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Sensation, Perception, and the Aging Process

Understand how the process of aging will affect your experience of reality in this highly informative and useful course by an award-winning professor of psychology.
Sensation, Perception, and the Aging Process is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 83.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Facinating Topic, Engaging Lecturer I am a retired Physician, there is a lot of interesting content in this course, some I knew but well reviewed and a lot I had never studied nor run across in my specialty. Professor Colavita was so engaging that I was prompted to look him up after the first lesson, sadly he and his wife were killed by a drunk driver in 2009 explaining why this course has never been updated, such a dynamic inquisitive guy, I'm sure he would add more. I actually got a little sad each lesson I watched!
Date published: 2024-05-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great info I loved this course. Besides the explanations for various phenomena, I got clarification on two issues I had noticed. One, on a recent cruise I was trying to look out at the Pleiades but couldn't see it unless I looked to the right of it. It would disappear if I looked directly at the cluster. I thought there might have been a dead spot on my retina and considered going to the eye doctor to have it checked out. After the lecture on vision, I realized that it was probably only the blind spot in my distance eye (I have one eye corrected for distance and one for reading). Second a-ha moment was about my hearing. I noticed that I was having difficulty understanding rapid speech, especially if the speaker had an accent. I figured it was a slowing down of the processing speed in my brain; a brain problem rather than an ear problem. But after the lectures on hearing I realized it was fewer and thinner fibers inside a part of the ear. So I was a little happier to know it wasn't my brain. In any case, all the lectures were interesting and the professor was engaging. I enjoyed. The real-life examples of various conditions and situations made it very relatable and interesting.
Date published: 2023-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sorry When This Course Ended Dr. Frank Colavita is such an engaging lecturer that his enthusiasm for his subject matter is contagious. He delivers what he has to share in a warm manner, with ideal pacing. In each lecture, the professor illustrates fascinating scientific information with well-chosen examples drawn from research, from historical and cultural material, and from his own life experiences. His course has enhanced my appreciation of the marvelous structures and systems within the human body that make sensation and perception possible. I have a better understanding now, too, of natural changes I may expect to come as I grow older. This course is excellent and deserves to be recommended. At the completion of these 24 lectures, my wife and I would have welcomed more. Please be aware that I am writing this review in 2023, and the course was produced in 2006. Dr. Colavita was not privy then to news of later medical approaches to dealing with sensory deficits, nor to how animals are now being credited with formerly unsuspected sensory and perceptive strengths. Also, Dr. Colavita does occasionally make verbal slips which typically seem easy enough to correct for oneself by paying attention to context (e.g., misidentifying which end of the visible light spectrum is the higher frequency end). In my opinion, his natural style of speaking, as distinct from reading to us from a teleprompter or textbook, more than makes up for such slips.
Date published: 2023-10-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I enjoyed this course immensely. I remember purchasing this course years ago as audio. Now that I have Wondrium membership, I was able to watch the video. It helped tremendously to watch the video as Dr. Colvita describe the anatomy of different organs. I was saddened to find out he was killed by a car accident in 2009. I feel he left an incredible gift to the society as he described his research. I agree with one of the critical reviewers. Is it truly necessary as a society to put our innocent animals for experimentation, sometimes sacrificing in the process? Who is funding such research?
Date published: 2023-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from very satisfying I really enjoyed the course. The lecturer obviously has a deep interest in his subject and succeeds in conveying it to his audience. It was fun. I was saddened to hear he had passed away.
Date published: 2023-09-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating series I listened to this course about a year after it was originally published. I loved it at the time and I'm rather pleased to see it finally up on Wondrium. Other reviewers have provided summaries and excellent analysis of the course, so I won't belabor the point; suffice to say that this course contains some truly fascinating information and is well worth your time. The only shame is that Dr. Colavita will never be able to do a follow up (as others have mentioned, he and his wife were killed in a vehicular accident a few years after this course was published).
Date published: 2023-08-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Surprisingly Technical This is a technical course on how the senses work. I had expected a more high-level, generic explanation but Dr. Colavita takes a more technical tack routinely using technical medical terminology. It is not overly technical, but it does require more attention than I had expected. Perhaps it could be said that the course is more physiological than psychological. The heart of the course focuses on each of the senses sequentially. Of course, there are multiple lections on each of the five well-know senses: Seeing, Hearing, Feeling, Tasting, and Smelling. To these, he adds one lecture each on two additional senses: Vestibular System (i.e., body orientation) and Kinesthetic Sense (i.e., muscle control). The effects of the aging process on sensation and perception are mentioned but do not constitute a major portion of the course. Dr. Colavita seemed to me to be uncomfortable, perhaps self-conscious, in front of the camera. As the lecture progresses, he seems to get more into the subject material (which he obviously enjoys) and forgets about the camera. He seems to use more anecdotes for supporting evidence than scientific studies, although I suspect that is merely a pedagogical choice to facilitate conveying the subject matter. The course guide is below average by The Great Courses (TGC) standards. There are only about four pages per lecture, well below average by TGC standards. There are some of the more important graphics used in the video. There is an extensive glossary, which is important given the technical nature of the course. There are biographical notes and a bibliography that includes a short note explaining what each reference can provide the reader. There is also a list of seven useful internet resources. I used the streaming video version. There were many important graphics. While one can listen to the course in audio-only mode such as when jogging or commuting, there will be a noticeable loss of content. The course was published in 2006.
Date published: 2023-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very personable teaching style Prof. Colavita has a personable teaching style. He scatters anecdotes throughout. We learn about the time he dressed up as Frankenstein for Halloween and the dog recognized his smell anyway. There was the time he was holding hands over a candle but his girlfriend howled in pain from dripping wax, though he felt almost no discomfort. Also he explained to a student the physiology that occurs from a weekend drunk leading to the perception of ceiling lights spinning overhead. He explains about his biased perception against a slow-talking yet meticulous and very effective slow talking lab assistant. "I wasn't really a bad child" he said then explained sneaking under the hoochie-coochie tent and ending up in the freak tent, and getting chased while his friend felt no pain from an injury until he came to rest. There was the time as a young boy he thought he was eating from his (depressed) single mother's stash of chocolate, then mistakenly finished a whole box of Ex-Lax and from that day had an aversion to chocolate of any kind. He tells of his elderly mother-in-law who lost her sense of smell and had no idea how foul she smelled in the nursing home. Regarding how children acquire language, he speaks of his 3 year old grand daughter who called the kitten who stole food from the other kitten "deplorable" after overhearing her mother earlier use the word referring to a corrupt local politician. This style makes difficult concepts "stick." I particularly appreciated the explanation of the vestibular system, which controls balance, and why it tends to fail in old age. The deterioration of the rods and cones of the eyes is helpful. He mentioned development of retinal implants. But this course is from 2006, and still no invention of this type is anywhere near ready for patients, now 17 years later. This course may not be new, but to me it is very fresh and useful.
Date published: 2023-05-03
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Investigate the mysteries of how we perceive reality based on our memory and our senses. Sensation, Perception, and the Aging Process takes a distinct approach to the understanding of human behavior. In 24 fascinating lectures, award-winning Professor Francis B. Colavita offers you a biological and psychological perspective on the way we navigate and react to the world. Among the exciting issues you explore are how our sensory systems process raw information, how our bodies allow us to learn and perform complex tasks, and how our sensations evolve over time. Rich in science and potent examples, this course will help you better understand how we experience the world.


Francis B. Colavita

Behavioral differences between species are better understood when we understand the differences in their sensory worlds.


University of Pittsburgh

Francis Colavita (1939–2009) was an Emeritus Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, where he taught for more than 40 years. He also held an adjunct faculty position at Florida Atlantic University. He earned his BA in Experimental Psychology from the University of Maryland and his PhD in Physiological Psychology from the University of Indiana. He went on to complete a two-year postdoctoral research fellowship at the Center for Neural Sciences. Professor Colavita’s teaching excellence was rewarded with five teaching awards, including the prestigious Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, the highest award for teaching excellence bestowed by the University of Pittsburgh. Professor Colavita published more than 30 scholarly articles in the areas of sensory processes, perception, and recovery of function following brain damage. He was the author of Sensory Changes in the Elderly.

By This Professor

Sensation, Perception, and Behavior

01: Sensation, Perception, and Behavior

In addition to presenting an overview of the course, this lecture offers a brief introduction to psychology in general and Behaviorism in particular. It distinguishes between the physical, sensory, and perceptual worlds and introduces the distinction between a sensation and a perception.

31 min
Sensation and Perception—A Distinction

02: Sensation and Perception—A Distinction

We learn that the brain is the organ of perception. Beginning in infancy, experiences stored in our brains determine the meanings that sensory events will have for us and that shape our behavior.

30 min
Vision—Stimulus and the Optical System

03: Vision—Stimulus and the Optical System

We begin learning how our sensory systems do their job of transducing energy from the physical world into language the brain understands—electrochemical activity—starting with the visual system.

30 min
Vision—The Retina

04: Vision—The Retina

This lecture explains the contributions that rods and cones—the human retina's two types of receptors—make to normal vision, including visual acuity and sensitivity.

30 min
Vision—Beyond the Optic Nerve

05: Vision—Beyond the Optic Nerve

We look at the role played by the visual information processing centers of the brain in orienting and reacting to objects in space; identifying those objects; and determining their shape, form, color, and size. We also explore the consequences of damage to these processing centers.

30 min
Vision—Age-Related Changes

06: Vision—Age-Related Changes

This lecture describes how the supporting structures, receptors, and neural elements of the visual system undergo progressive physical changes related to the aging process, and how, as a consequence of these changes, vision is affected in predictable ways as we grow older.

30 min
Hearing—Stimulus and Supporting Structures

07: Hearing—Stimulus and Supporting Structures

What we call sound is the brain's response to small, rapid, in-and-out movements of the eardrums produced by pressure variations in air molecules. We examine how the supporting structures of the outer and inner ear begin the hearing process.

30 min
Hearing—The Inner Ear

08: Hearing—The Inner Ear

This lecture explains how the transduction process is accomplished by the auditory receptors, known as hair cells, as well as the difference between the two mechanisms by which sounds from the environment reach those cells.

30 min
Hearing—Age-Related Changes

09: Hearing—Age-Related Changes

We look at several causes of age-related hearing loss, including changes in the ear canal and eardrum, degeneration of the temporal bone, reduced electrical output in the cochlea, progressive death of hair cells, and degeneration of the auditory nerve.

30 min
The Cutaneous System—Receptors, Pathways

10: The Cutaneous System—Receptors, Pathways

Experimental examination of our skin sense goes back more than 150 years, but the workings—and importance—of the cutaneous system turn out to be significantly more complicated than those original experiments suggested.

30 min
The Cutaneous System—Early Development

11: The Cutaneous System—Early Development

This lecture presents an overview of the research indicating the importance of cutaneous stimulation—especially tactile stimulation—to normal growth and development.

30 min
The Cutaneous System—Age-Related Changes

12: The Cutaneous System—Age-Related Changes

Although there are decreases in cutaneous sensitivity that come with age, most have little effect on normal daily living. In fact, tactile stimulation is as important to young and old adults as it is to infants and children.

30 min
Pain—Early History

13: Pain—Early History

Although we learn more each year about pain, many aspects of the topic still remain a puzzle, for example, "good pain" versus "bad pain," the placebo effect, and cultural conditioning.

30 min
Pain—Acupuncture, Endorphins, and Aging

14: Pain—Acupuncture, Endorphins, and Aging

This second lecture on pain examines a once-controversial technique, explores a possible explanation for its effectiveness, and looks at how age affects our ability to feel different kinds of pain.

30 min
Taste—Stimulus, Structures, and Receptors

15: Taste—Stimulus, Structures, and Receptors

This introduction to the subject of taste looks at how the body gathers taste-related sensory data and why we have natural preferences for certain tastes.

30 min
Taste—Factors Influencing Preferences

16: Taste—Factors Influencing Preferences

In general, people are born with the same innate taste preferences. Yet by adulthood, people around the world have such different taste preferences that it is difficult to believe those preferences were ever similar. We look at why this is so.

31 min
Smell—The Unappreciated Sense

17: Smell—The Unappreciated Sense

When asked which of their senses they would miss the least, many people choose smell. As this lecture shows, however, smell is far more important for humans than we realize.

30 min
Smell—Consequences of Anosmia

18: Smell—Consequences of Anosmia

What would it mean to lose the sense of smell? Research findings show the impact might be greater than we imagine.

30 min
The Vestibular System—Body Orientation

19: The Vestibular System—Body Orientation

In studying this little-known system, we learn about the components of the inner ear that the body depends upon to respond to and identify changes in our position in space.

30 min
The Kinesthetic Sense—Motor Memory

20: The Kinesthetic Sense—Motor Memory

Although often referred to as "muscle memory," our kinesthetic sense is much more. It sends to the brain continuous sensory feedback from receptors located not only in the muscles but also in our tendons, ligaments, and joints.

31 min
Brain Mechanisms and Perception

21: Brain Mechanisms and Perception

Evolution has not replaced the older parts of our brain but has simply added new parts. The old ones retain their original functions, while our higher mental processes, including perception, reside in our newest part, the cerebral cortex.

31 min
Perception of Language

22: Perception of Language

Language is made up of verbal auditory stimuli that have become charged with meaning. It is so critical to humans that it occupies two areas of the brain, one for producing speech and one for comprehending it.

31 min
The Visual Agnosias

23: The Visual Agnosias

The complex way different "visual association areas" in the brain allow it to integrate sensory data and memory into visual images can occasionally produce extraordinary kinds of deficits.

31 min
Perception of Other People/Course Summary

24: Perception of Other People/Course Summary

This final lecture describes some factors in how we perceive other people and presents a general summary of the course. Finally, it looks at current research and trends in the field of sensation and perception.

32 min