Practice-related changes in eye movement strategy in healthy adults with simulated hemianopia

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Abstract

The impact of visual field deficits such as hemianopia can be mitigated by eye movements that position the visual image within the intact visual field. Effective eye movement strategies are not observed in all patients, however, and it is not known whether persistent deficits are due to injury or to pre-existing individual differences. Here we examined whether repeated exposure to a search task with rewards for good performance would lead to better eye movement strategies in healthy individuals. Participants were exposed to simulated hemianopia during a search task in five testing sessions over five consecutive days and received monetary payment for improvements in search times. With practice, most participants made saccades that went further into the blind field earlier in search, specifically under conditions where little information about the target location would be gained by inspecting the sighted field. These changes in search strategy were correlated with reduced search times. This strategy improvement also generalised to a novel task, with better performance in naming objects in a photograph under conditions of simulated hemianopia after practice with visual search compared to a control group. However, even after five days, eye movements in most participants remained far from optimal. The results demonstrate the benefits, and limitations, of practice and reward in the development of effective coping strategies for visual field deficits.

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Nowakowska, A., Clarke, A. D. F., Sahraie, A., & Hunt, A. R. (2019). Practice-related changes in eye movement strategy in healthy adults with simulated hemianopia. Neuropsychologia, 128, 232–240. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2018.01.020

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