Visual selective attention and reading efficiency are related in children

Cortex. 1998 Sep;34(4):531-46. doi: 10.1016/s0010-9452(08)70512-4.


We investigated the relationship between visual selective attention and linguistic performance. Subjects were classified in four categories according to their accuracy in a letter cancellation task involving selective attention. The task consisted in searching a target letter in a set of background letters and accuracy was measured as a function of set size. We found that children with the lowest performance in the cancellation task present a significantly slower reading rate and a higher number of reading visual errors than children with highest performance. Results also show that these groups of searchers present significant differences in a lexical search task whereas their performance did not differ in lexical decision and syllables control task. The relationship between letter search and reading, as well as the finding that poor readers-searchers perform poorly lexical search tasks also involving selective attention, suggest that the relationship between letter search and reading difficulty may reflect a deficit in a visual selective attention mechanisms which is involved in all these tasks. A deficit in visual attention can be linked to the problems that disabled readers present in the function of magnocellular stream which culminates in posterior parietal cortex, an area which plays an important role in guiding visual attention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reading*
  • Time Factors