Visual and auditory attentional capture are both sluggish in children with developmental dyslexia
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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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Andrea Facoetti, Developmental Neuropsychology Unit, Scientific Institute ?E. Medea? of Bosisio P., Lecco, Italy