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Kimron L Shapiro, Frances Garrad-Cole; Age-related deficits and involvement of frontal cortical areas as revealed by the attentional blink task. Journal of Vision 2003;3(9):726. doi: 10.1167/3.9.726.
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The attentional blink (AB) method represents a useful way to study the dwell-time of attention and has been the subject of a considerable number of experiments in recent years. In a standard AB task, participants are required to report two targets, separated from trial to trial by a variable stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA). The robust result of such an experiment is that, after having identified the first target (T1) correctly, there is a pronounced deficit in report of the second target (T2) for approximately 500 msec. Although the phenomenon has been well characterised in adults, few findings have been reported as regards its developmental aspects. Based on the reasoning that 1) frontal cortical areas continue to develop into early adult years, and 2) the AB outcome requires executive function and working memory to perform the task, we anticipated developmental differences to be revealed in the degree of AB exhibited by variously aged groups of participants. We tested four age groups with mean ages of seven, twelve, fifteen, and twenty on a modified version of the AB task that did not require reading. Participants were required to report whether T1 (masked) pointed up vs. down and whether T2 (masked) pointed left vs. right. Results showed a large deficit in AB performance in the youngest group, failing to recover until approximately 1500 ms. Performance in the twelve year-old group revealed a more pronounced AB than did older children and adults and did not recover until approximately 1100 ms. A follow-up experiment reveals a deficit in the youngest group on a task requiring executive function. We conclude that the inability in young children to recover attentional function as well as their older age counterparts is likely due to lack of development of frontal cortical areas. These results corroborate well with studies of adult patients with lesions in similar brain areas.
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