Impaired visual competition in patients with homonymous visual field defects
SourceNeuropsychologia, 97, (2017), pp. 152-162
Article / Letter to editor
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SubjectBiophysics; Radboudumc 3: Disorders of movement DCMN: Donders Center for Medical Neuroscience
Intense visual training can lead to partial recovery of visual field defects caused by lesions of the primary visual cortex. However, the standard visual detection and discrimination tasks, used to assess this recovery process tend to ignore the complexity of the natural visual environment, where multiple stimuli continuously interact. Visual competition is an essential component for natural search tasks and detecting unexpected events. Our study focused on visual decision-making and to what extent the recovered visual field can compete for attention with the 'intact' visual field. Nine patients with visual field defects who had previously received visual discrimination training, were compared to healthy age-matched controls using a saccade target-selection paradigm, in which participants actively make a saccade towards the brighter of two flashed targets. To further investigate the nature of competition (feed-forward or feedback inhibition), we presented two flashes that reversed their intensity difference during the flash. Both competition between recovered visual field and intact visual field, as well as competition within the intact visual field, were assessed. Healthy controls showed the expected primacy effect; they preferred the initially brighter target. Surprisingly, choice behaviour, even in the patients' supposedly 'intact' visual field, was significantly different from the control group for all but one. In the latter patient, competition was comparable to the controls. All other patients showed a significantly reduced preference to the brighter target, but still showed a small hint of primacy in the reversal conditions. The present results indicate that patients and controls have similar decision-making mechanisms but patients' choices are affected by a strong tendency to guess, even in the intact visual field. This tendency likely reveals slower integration of information, paired with a lower threshold. Current rehabilitation should therefore also include training focused on improving visual decision-making of the defective and the intact visual field.
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