Little is known about the role of the magno system in reading. One important hypothesis is that this system is involved in the allocation of attention. We reasoned that the presentation of a single letter automatically draws attention to this letter, whereas in the case of a flanked letter, an additional process of attention allocation is required for identification to occur. In three letter-naming experiments with 24 subjects each, normally reading adults were presented with flanked (e.g. xax) and with single (e.g. a) letters at three possible ( para )foveal locations. The letters appeared in magno-disadvantageous colour contrast or in parvo-disadvantageous weak luminance contrast with the background. A control experiment verified that colour contrast had generated less magnocellular activity than had luminance contrast. Colour-contrast presentation led to a significantly lower naming performance for flanked letters than did luminance-contrast presentation, despite the fact that the two contrasts did not elicit differences in naming performance when the letters were presented in isolation. This latter finding rules out the possibility that colour contrast had generated not only less magno- but also less parvocellular activity than had luminance contrast. Thus, it can be concluded that the magno system is involved in the identification of flanked letters. This conclusion supports the hypothesis that the magno system is important to the allocation of attention. Further, it may provide an explanation for the frequent finding that people with developmental dyslexia have impairments in their magnocellular system.
Neuropsychologia – Elsevier
Published: Jan 1, 2002
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