Voluntary saccadic control in dyslexia

M Biscaldi, B Fischer, K Hartnegg
Perception 2000, 29 (5): 509-21
The role of eye-movement control in dyslexia is still unclear. Recent studies, however, confirmed that dyslexics show poor saccadic control in single and sequential target tasks. In the present study we investigated whether dyslexic subjects are impaired on an antisaccade task requiring saccades against the direction of a stimulus. Altogether, 620 subjects between the ages of 7 and 17 years were classified as dyslexics (N = 506) or control subjects (N = 114) on the grounds of the discrepancy between their intellectual abilities and reading/spelling achievements. All subjects performed an overlap prosaccade and a gap antisaccade task with 100 trials to each side of stimulation in random order. Variables analysed were the overall saccadic reaction time of both tasks; and from the antisaccade task the number of errors (prosaccades), the number of corrected errors, and the number of trials in which the subjects still failed to reach the side opposite the stimulus even after two saccades. An analysis of variance was carried out taking into account the development of saccadic behaviour with age and the differences between the groups. The results confirm development of saccade control with age, especially in the voluntary component (a frontal-lobe function) for both groups, but indicate that the antisaccade task performance, as measured by the error and the correction rate, is significantly worse in the dyslexic group at ages above 8 years. Up to 50% of the dyslexics performed the antisaccade task 1.5 standard deviations below the mean of the controls.

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