Authors: Facoetti, Andrea; Pierluigi Paganoni, Maria Luisa Lorusso.
Publication: Experimental Brain Research . Volume 132, Issue 4, pp 531–538 2000 | DOI: 10.1007/s002219900330
The present study investigated the spatial distribution of visual attention in dyslexic and normally reading children. The performances of the two groups were investigated using two different paradigms. In experiment 1 we analyzed the distribution of processing resources both inside and outside the focus of visual attention by simply recording reaction times to the detection of a white dot target projected at different eccentricities from the fovea. The distribution of attentional resources differed significantly between the two groups of children. The eccentricity of the stimulus was significant only for normally reading children – who showed a normal gradient – as it influenced their detection speed, whereas it had no effect on dyslexic children, who exhibited a diffused distribution of visual processing resources inside the visual field. In experiment 2 we studied the distributed (unfocused) mode of attention in a visual search task by measuring reaction times to a target stimulus inside a large configuration with a variable number of distractors. Results show that as compared to normal children dyslexics are better able to distribute their attentional resources diffusely. Our conclusion is that reading disability may be characterized by a diffused distribution of visual processing resources. These data might be interpreted in the framework of studies on magnocellular deficits in dyslexia, whereby the anomalous distribution of visual attention might explain how transient pathway functioning influences the reading process.