JOURNAL ARTICLE

Dyslexic children are confronted with unstable binocular fixation while reading

Stephanie Jainta, Zoï Kapoula
PloS One 2011, 6 (4): e18694
21494641
Reading requires three-dimensional motor control: saccades bring the eyes from left to right, fixating word after word; and oblique saccades bring the eyes to the next line of the text. The angle of vergence of the two optic axes should be adjusted to the depth of the book or screen and--most importantly--should be maintained in a sustained manner during saccades and fixations. Maintenance of vergence is important as it is a prerequisite for a single clear image of each word to be projected onto the fovea of the eyes. Deficits in the binocular control of saccades and of vergence in dyslexics have been reported previously but only for tasks using single targets. This study examines saccades and vergence control during real text reading. Thirteen dyslexic and seven non-dyslexic children read the French text "L'Allouette" in two viewing distances (40 cm vs. 100 cm), while binocular eye movements were measured with the Chronos Eye-tracking system. We found that the binocular yoking of reading saccades was poor in dyslexic children (relative to non-dyslexics) resulting in vergence errors; their disconjugate drift during fixations was not correlated with the disconjugacy during their saccades, causing considerable variability of vergence angle from fixation to fixation. Due to such poor oculomotor adjustments during reading, the overall fixation disparity was larger for dyslexic children, putting larger demand on their sensory fusion processes. Moreover, for dyslexics the standard deviation of fixation disparity was larger particularly when reading at near distance. We conclude that besides documented phoneme processing disorders, visual/ocular motor imperfections may exist in dyslexics that lead to fixation instability and thus, to instability of the letters or words during reading; such instability may perturb fusional processes and might--in part--complicate letter/word identification.

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