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Evidence for a differential interference of noise in sub-lexical and lexical reading routes in healthy participants and dyslexics

Ana Pina Rodrigues, José Rebola, Helena Jorge, Maria José Ribeiro, Marcelino Pereira, Miguel Castelo-Branco, Marieke van Asselen
Cognitive Neuropsychology 2017, 34 (1-2): 42-51
The ineffective exclusion of surrounding noise has been proposed to underlie the reading deficits in developmental dyslexia. However, previous studies supporting this hypothesis focused on low-level visual tasks, providing only an indirect link of noise interference on reading processes. In this study, we investigated the effect of noise on regular, irregular, and pseudoword reading in 23 dyslexic children and 26 age- and IQ-matched controls, by applying the white noise displays typically used to validate this theory to a lexical decision task. Reading performance and eye movements were measured. Results showed that white noise did not consistently affect dyslexic readers more than typical readers. Noise affected more dyslexic than typical readers in terms of reading accuracy, but it affected more typical than dyslexic readers in terms of response time and eye movements (number of fixations and regressions). Furthermore, in typical readers, noise affected more the speed of reading of pseudowords than real words. These results suggest a particular impact of noise on the sub-lexical reading route where attention has to be deployed to individual letters. The use of a lexical route would reduce the effect of noise. A differential impact of noise between words and pseudowords may therefore not be evident in dyslexic children if they are not yet proficient in using the lexical route. These findings indicate that the type of reading stimuli and consequent reading strategies play an important role in determining the effects of noise interference in reading processing and should be taken into account by further studies.


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