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Johan J. M. Pel, Aleid C. Boer, Johannes van der Steen; Processing speed in perceptual visual crowding. Journal of Vision 2019;19(3):9. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.3.9.
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In this study, a perceptual visual crowding paradigm was designed to quantitatively assess the detection speed of (un)crowded meaningful visual targets using eye-movement responses. This paradigm was tested in individuals with dyslexia and age-matched controls. Trials were shown on a monitor with an integrated eye tracker to 25 control and 11 dyslexic subjects without any known ocular problems. Each trial started with fixation of a central target. Next, four peripheral targets were shown (left, right, top, bottom), one being a duplicate of the central target. The duplicate was either surrounded by flankers (crowding trials) or shown in isolation (reference trials). The timing of the primary saccades were obtained as a measure for detection speed. The performance of the reference trials was significantly higher compared to the crowding trials (p < 0.05) and a 54% increase in saccadic reaction time (SRT) was found for the crowding trials. The linear mixed model revealed a significant effect of critical spacing and chart type. For the reference trials, no significant differences in SRT were found between dyslexic and control subjects. However, for the crowding trials, a significant increase of ∼13% in SRT was found in the dyslexic subjects. A first application of this paradigm showed that dyslexic subjects perform equally well in identifying visual targets in crowded as well as uncrowded scenes compared to controls. However, they seem to need more time to identify targets in crowded scenes, which might be related to the reading difficulties that they experience in general.
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