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Ariella V. Popple, Dennis M. Levi; The attentional blink in amblyopia. Journal of Vision 2008;8(13):12. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/8.13.12.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Amblyopia is a disorder of visual acuity in one eye, thought to arise from suppression by the other eye during development of the visual cortex. In the attentional blink, the second of two targets (T2) in a Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) stream is difficult to detect and identify when it appears shortly but not immediately after the first target (T1). We investigated the attentional blink seen through amblyopic eyes and found that it was less finely tuned in time than when the 12 amblyopic observers viewed the stimuli with their preferred eyes. T2 performance was slightly better through amblyopic eyes two frames after T1 but worse one frame after T1. Previously (A. V. Popple & D. M. Levi, 2007), we showed that when the targets were red letters in a stream of gray letters (or vice versa), normal observers frequently confused T2 with the letters before and after it (neighbor errors). Observers viewing through their amblyopic eyes made significantly fewer neighbor errors and more T2 responses consisting of letters that were never presented. In normal observers, T1 (on the rare occasions when it was reported incorrectly) was often confused with the letter immediately after it. Viewing through their amblyopic eyes, observers with amblyopia made more responses to the letter immediately before T1. These results suggest that childhood suppression of the input from amblyopic eyes disrupts attentive processing. We hypothesize reduced connectivity between monocularly tuned lower visual areas, subcortical structures that drive foveal attention, and more frontal regions of the brain responsible for letter recognition and working memory. Perhaps when viewing through their amblyopic eyes, the observers were still processing the letter identity of a prior distractor when the color flash associated with the target was detected. After T1, unfocused temporal attention may have bound together erroneously the features of succeeding letters, resulting in the appearance of letters that were not actually presented. These findings highlight the role of early (monocular) visual processes in modulating the attentional blink, as well as the role of attention in amblyopic visual deficits.
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