Visual and auditory attentional capture are both sluggish in children with developmental dyslexia

Andrea Facoetti, Maria Luisa Lorusso, Carmen Cattaneo, Raffaella Galli, Massimo Molteni
Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis 2005, 65 (1): 61-72
Automatic multimodal spatial attention was studied in 12 dyslexic children (SRD), 18 chronological age matched (CA) and 9 reading level matched (RL) normally reading children by measuring reaction times (RTs) to lateralized visual and auditory stimuli in cued detection tasks. The results show a slower time course of focused multimodal attention (FMA) in SRD children than in both CA and RL controls. Specifically, no cueing effect (i.e., RTs difference between cued-uncued) was found in SRD children at 100 ms cue-target delay, while it was present at 250 ms cue-target delay. In contrast, in both CA and RL controls, a cueing effect was found at the shorter cue-target delay but it disappeared at the longer cue-target delay, as predicted by theories of automatic capture of attention. Our results suggest that FMA may be crucial for learning to read, and we propose a possible causal explanation of how a FMA deficit leads to specific reading disability, suggesting that sluggish FMA in dyslexic children could be caused by a specific parietal dysfunction.

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