Authors: Zhao, J., Liu, H., Li, J. et al..
Publication: Scientific Reports (Nature Research). 9, 18964 2019 | DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-55624-7
Deficits in the visual attention span (VAS) are thought to hamper reading performance in dyslexic individuals. However, the causal relationship between VAS deficits and reading disability remains unclear. The present study attempts to address this issue by using a VAS-based intervention to explore the possible influence of VAS on reading processes in Chinese children with dyslexia. Given the influence of the heterogeneity of dyslexia on intervention effects, VAS-impaired dyslexic and VAS-intact dyslexic individuals were separately trained. Therefore, there were five groups of participants in this study, including 10 trained dyslexic individuals with VAS deficits and 10 untrained dyslexic individuals with VAS dysfunction as the baseline reference, 10 trained and 10 untrained dyslexic individuals with an intact VAS, and fourteen age-matched normal readers for reference of normal level. All participants completed reading measures and a visual 1-back task, reflecting VAS capacity with non-verbal stimuli and non-verbal responses, before and after VAS-based training. VAS-based training tasks included a length estimation task regarding the bottom-up attention, visual search and digit cancelling tasks targeting top-down attentional modulation, and visual tracking tasks to train eye-movement control. The results showed that visual training only helped improve VAS skills in VAS-impaired dyslexic individuals receiving training. Meanwhile, their silent sentence reading accuracy improved after training, and there was a significant relationship between training improvements in VAS function and reading performance. The current findings suggest that VAS-based training has a far-transfer effect on linguistic level (i.e., fluent reading). These findings suggest the possibility that VAS-related training may help children with dyslexia improve their reading skills.