If you’ve ever noticed that you notice more as you get older, well, brain science may be on your side. There’s a catch, though: Lots of that visual information isn’t important, and it might be replacing more relevant stuff, like where you parked the car.

A new study suggests that adults who are well into their 60s and 70s can learn visual information just as readily as the whippersnappers in the 19-to-30 range, but the elders pick up much more irrelevant visual information than do their younger counterparts.

The findings could help clarify the nature of cognitive declines that come with age. At least for visual perceptual learning, older brains remain “plastic,” or changeable, but they may sacrifice stability – or long-term retention of information, the study suggests. And that’s because of a decline in the ability to suppress information that isn’t germane to the task at hand, according to the study.

“Our brain capacity is limited,” said Brown University neuroscientist Takeo Watanabe, co-author of the study published online Wednesday in the journal Current Biology. “If you learn more unnecessary things, then there is a risk of replacing important, existing information in the brain with something trivial.”

Watanabe and his fellow researchers from the University of California, Riverside and National Yang-Ming University in Taiwan have been exploring how older people learn.

A study they published this month showed that learning-related changes in one part of older people’s brains involved mainly white matter, while gray-matter activity changed among the young.

Both groups viewed slides with a mix of six letters and two numerals on a background of moving dots and were asked to report what numerals they saw.

But it was perception of the dots that was being tested. Researchers tinkered with how many of those wandering dots moved in a “coherent” way from frame to frame. Some proportions were so small that they were below the threshold of conscious detection, while others were too obvious to ignore. But it turns out these too-obvious patterns were ignored. But only among the young, the study showed.