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Marlou J. G. Kooiker, Johannes van der Steen, Johan J. M. Pel; Development of salience-driven and visually-guided eye movement responses. Journal of Vision 2016;16(5):18. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/16.5.18.
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Development of visuospatial attention can be quantified from infancy onward using visually-guided eye movement responses. We investigated the interaction between eye movement response times and salience in target areas of visual stimuli over age in a cohort of typically developing children. A preferential looking (PL) paradigm consisting of stimuli with six different visual modalities (cartoons, contrast, form, local motion, color, global motion) was combined with the automated measurement of reflexive eye movements. Effective salience was defined as visual salience of each target area relative to its background. Three classes of PL stimuli were used: with high- (cartoon, contrast), intermediate- (local motion, form), and low-effective salience (global motion, color). Eye movement response times to the target areas of the six PL stimuli were nonverbally assessed in 220 children aged 1–12 years. The development of response times with age was influenced by effective salience: Response times to targets with high salience reached stable values earlier in development (around 4 years of age) than to targets with low salience (around 9 years of age). Intra-individual response time variability was highest for low-salient stimuli, and stabilized later (around 4 years) than for highly salient stimuli (2 years). The improvement of eye movement response times to visual modalities in PL stimuli occurred earlier in development for highly salient than for low-salient targets. The present age-dependent and salience-related results provide a quantitative and theoretical framework to assess the development of visuospatial attention, and of related visual processing capacities, in children from 1 year of age.
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