Lexical processes and eye movements in neglect dyslexia

G di Pellegrino, E Làdavas, C Galletti
Behavioural Neurology, 13 (1-2): 61-74
Neglect dyslexia is a disturbance in the allocation of spatial attention over a letter string following unilateral brain damage. Patients with this condition may fail to read letters on the contralesional side of an orthographic string. In some of these cases, reading is better with words than with non-words. This word superiority effect has received a variety of explanations that differ, among other things, with regard to the spatial distribution of attention across the letter string during reading. The primary goal of the present study was to explore the interaction between attention and lexical processes by recording eye movements in a patient (F.C.) with severe left neglect dyslexia who was required to read isolated word and non-word stimuli of various length. F.C.'s ocular exploration of orthographic stimuli was highly sensitive to the lexical status of the letter string. We found that: (1) the location to which F.C. directed his initial saccade (obtained approximately 230 ms post-stimulus onset) differed between word and non-word stimuli; (2) the patient spent a greater amount of time fixating the contralesional side of word than non-word strings. Moreover, we also found that F.C. failed to identify the left letters of a string despite having fixated them, thus showing a clear dissociation between eye movement responses and conscious access to orthographic stimuli. Our data suggest the existence of multiple interactions between lexical, attentional and eye movement systems that occur from very initial stages of visual word recognition.

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