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Perhaps correlational but not causal: no effect of dyslexic readers' magnocellular system on their eye movements during reading

Florian Hutzler, Martin Kronbichler, Arthur M Jacobs, Heinz Wimmer
Neuropsychologia 2006, 44 (4): 637-48
16115655
During reading, dyslexic readers exhibit more and longer fixations and a higher percentage of regressions than normal readers. It is still a matter of debate, whether these divergent eye movement patterns of dyslexic readers reflect an underlying problem in word processing or whether they are - as the proponents of the magnocellular deficit hypothesis claim - associated with deficient visual perception that is causal for dyslexia. To overcome problems in the empirical linkage of the magnocellular theory with reading, a string processing task is presented that poses similar demands on visual perception (in terms of letter identification) and oculomotor control as reading does. Two experiments revealed no differences in the eye movement patterns of dyslexic and control readers performing this task. Furthermore, no relationship between the functionality of the participants' magnocellular system assessed by the coherent motion task and string processing were found. The perceptual and oculomotor demands required during string processing were functionally equivalent to those during reading and the presented consonant strings had similar visual characteristics as reading material. Thus, a strong inference can be drawn: Dyslexic readers do not seem to have difficulties with the accurate perception of letters and the control of their eye movements during reading - their reading difficulties therefore cannot be explained in terms of oculomotor and visuo-perceptual problems.

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