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Inna Tsirlin, Linda Colpa, Herbert C. Goltz, Agnes M. F. Wong; Visual search deficits in amblyopia. Journal of Vision 2018;18(4):17. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/18.4.17.
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Amblyopia is a neurodevelopmental disorder defined as a reduction in visual acuity that cannot be corrected by optical means. It has been associated with low-level deficits. However, research has demonstrated a link between amblyopia and visual attention deficits in counting, tracking, and identifying objects. Visual search is a useful tool for assessing visual attention but has not been well studied in amblyopia. Here, we assessed the extent of visual search deficits in amblyopia using feature and conjunction search tasks. We compared the performance of participants with amblyopia (n = 10) to those of controls (n = 12) on both feature and conjunction search tasks using Gabor patch stimuli, varying spatial bandwidth and orientation. To account for the low-level deficits inherent in amblyopia, we measured individual contrast and crowding thresholds and monitored eye movements. The display elements were then presented at suprathreshold levels to ensure that visibility was equalized across groups. There was no performance difference between groups on feature search, indicating that our experimental design controlled successfully for low-level amblyopia deficits. In contrast, during conjunction search, median reaction times and reaction time slopes were significantly larger in participants with amblyopia compared with controls. Amblyopia differentially affects performance on conjunction visual search, a more difficult task that requires feature binding and possibly the involvement of higher-level attention processes. Deficits in visual search may affect day-to-day functioning in people with amblyopia.
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