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Neuropsychologia. 2010 Nov;48(13):3793-801. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.09.002. Epub 2010 Sep 15.

Attentional engagement deficits in dyslexic children.

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Dipartimento di Psicologia Generale e Centro di Scienze Cognitive, Università di Padova, Padova, Italy.


Reading acquisition requires, in addition to appropriate phonological abilities, accurate and rapid selection of sublexical orthographic units by attentional letter string parsing. Spatio-temporal distribution of attentional engagement onto 3-pseudoletter strings was studied in 28 dyslexic and 55 normally reading children by measuring attentional masking (AM). AM refers to an impaired identification of the first of two sequentially presented masked objects (O1 and O2). In the present study, O1 was always centrally displayed, whereas the location of O2 (central or lateral) and the O1-O2 interval were manipulated. Dyslexic children showed a larger AM at the shortest O1-O2 interval and a sluggish AM recovery at the longest O1-O2 interval, as well as an abnormal lateral AM. More importantly, these spatio-temporal deficits of attentional engagement were selectively present in dyslexics with poor phonological decoding skills. Our results suggest that an inefficient spatio-temporal distribution of attentional engagement - probably linked to a parietal lobule dysfunction - might selectively impair the letter string parsing mechanism during phonological decoding.

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