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Mariel Roberts, Rachel Cymerman, R. Theodore Smith, Lynne Kiorpes, Marisa Carrasco; Covert spatial attention is functionally intact in amblyopic human adults. Journal of Vision 2016;16(15):30. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/16.15.30.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Certain abnormalities in behavioral performance and neural signaling have been attributed to a deficit of visual attention in amblyopia, a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by a diverse array of visual deficits following abnormal binocular childhood experience. Critically, most have inferred attention's role in their task without explicitly manipulating and measuring its effects against a baseline condition. Here, we directly investigate whether human amblyopic adults benefit from covert spatial attention—the selective processing of visual information in the absence of eye movements—to the same degree as neurotypical observers. We manipulated both involuntary (Experiment 1) and voluntary (Experiment 2) attention during an orientation discrimination task for which the effects of covert spatial attention have been well established in neurotypical and special populations. In both experiments, attention significantly improved accuracy and decreased reaction times to a similar extent (a) between the eyes of the amblyopic adults and (b) between the amblyopes and their age- and gender-matched controls. Moreover, deployment of voluntary attention away from the target location significantly impaired task performance (Experiment 2). The magnitudes of the involuntary and voluntary attention benefits did not correlate with amblyopic depth or severity. Both groups of observers showed canonical performance fields (better performance along the horizontal than vertical meridian and at the lower than upper vertical meridian) and similar effects of attention across locations. Despite their characteristic low-level vision impairments, covert spatial attention remains functionally intact in human amblyopic adults.
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