September 2018
Volume 18, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2018
Attenuation of Inattentional Blindness in Individuals who are HIV Positive
Author Affiliations
  • Maegen Walker
    Psychology, University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • Cecilia Shikuma
    Medicine, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii
  • Scott Sinnett
    Psychology, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Journal of Vision September 2018, Vol.18, 1117. doi:
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      Maegen Walker, Cecilia Shikuma, Scott Sinnett; Attenuation of Inattentional Blindness in Individuals who are HIV Positive. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):1117.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Inattentional blindness (IB) is categorized as the inability to perceive stimuli or events, sometimes salient and highly visible, due to a lack of attention. This perceptual failing serves a functional purpose allowing attentional resources to be focused on a current task by filtering (i.e., inhibiting) task-irrelevant visual information. IB has been well documented and replicated in a variety of laboratory and naturalistic settings. However, the extent to which IB is modulated by brain injury or disease is relatively understudied. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is known to disrupt attentional processes leading to higher rates of distractibility. Due to this documented attentional deficit, we predicted that people who are HIV positive (+) might be less likely to experience IB for highly salient, unattended, stimuli. Therefore, we expected that individuals who are HIV+ would exhibit improved perception of task irrelevant items compared to those who are HIV negative (-). We investigated this hypothesis by comparing performance on a well-established IB paradigm between individuals who are HIV+ and an age matched HIV- control group. Participants were presented with a rapid stream of pictures superimposed with written words. They were asked to identify immediate picture repetitions (i.e., targets) while ignoring the superimposed words (Figure 1). Replicating the robust literature on IB, and despite the unattended words being plainly visible, all participants had difficulty identifying these items in a subsequently presented surprise recognition task. Importantly, the HIV- control group exhibited significantly higher rates of IB, recognizing only 29% of the unattended words, compared to the participants with HIV who recognized 52% of these items (Figure 2). These data suggest that attentional deficits associated with HIV may also contribute to an attenuation of inattentional blindness among this patient population.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018


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