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History of Reading Struggles Linked to Enhanced Learning in Low Spatial Frequency Scenes
Published: Friday, April 27, 2012
Author: Matthew H. Schneps et al.

by Matthew H. Schneps, James R. Brockmole, Gerhard Sonnert, Marc Pomplun

People with dyslexia, who face lifelong struggles with reading, exhibit numerous associated low-level sensory deficits including deficits in focal attention. Countering this, studies have shown that struggling readers outperform typical readers in some visual tasks that integrate distributed information across an expanse. Though such abilities would be expected to facilitate scene memory, prior investigations using the contextual cueing paradigm failed to find corresponding advantages in dyslexia. We suggest that these studies were confounded by task-dependent effects exaggerating known focal attention deficits in dyslexia, and that, if natural scenes were used as the context, advantages would emerge. Here, we investigate this hypothesis by comparing college students with histories of severe lifelong reading difficulties (SR) and typical readers (TR) in contexts that vary attention load. We find no differences in contextual-cueing when spatial contexts are letter-like objects, or when contexts are natural scenes. However, the SR group significantly outperforms the TR group when contexts are low-pass filtered natural scenes [F(3, 39)?=?3.15, p<.05]. These findings suggest that perception or memory for low spatial frequency components in scenes is enhanced in dyslexia. These findings are important because they suggest strengths for spatial learning in a population otherwise impaired, carrying implications for the education and support of students who face challenges in school.
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