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Neuropsychologia. 2010 Jul;48(9):2693-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.05.016. Epub 2010 May 15.

Altered spatial distribution of visual attention in near and far space after early deafness.

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Center for Studies of Psychological Application, Department of Psychology, South China Normal University, Guangzhou, 510631, China.


Early deafness results in a redistribution of more attentional resources to the visual periphery in near space, specifically under conditions of selective attention, probably to compensate for the loss of auditory alertness to potentially dangerous stimuli from outside the current attentional focus. It remains poorly understood, however, whether spatial distribution of attention in far space is altered by early deafness as well. In the present study, we investigated whether and how early deafness alters the distribution of visuospatial attention in far space, compared to hearing controls. We asked deaf individuals and hearing controls to perform a flanker task with either peripheral or central distractors, either in near or far space. Sizes of compatibility effect were used to assess the amount of attentional resources received by the peripheral and central distractors. In near space, peripheral distractors induced significantly larger compatibility effect in deaf individuals than in hearing controls while central distractors induced significantly larger compatibility effect in hearing controls than in deaf individuals. On the other hand in far space, although peripheral distractors induced equivalent sizes of compatibility effect in the deaf and hearing groups, central distractors caused significant compatibility effect only in deaf individuals, but not in hearing controls. Our results suggest that early deafness results in a redistribution of visuospatial attention not only in near space but also in far space, with enhanced peripheral attention in near space and enhanced central attention in far space.

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