Why is the processing of global motion impaired in adults with developmental dyslexia?

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Individuals with dyslexia are purported to have a selective dorsal stream impairment that manifests as a deficit in perceiving visual global motion relative to global form. However, the underlying nature of the visual deficit in readers with dyslexia remains unclear. It may be indicative of a difficulty with motion detection, temporal processing, or any task that necessitates integration of local visual information across multiple dimensions (i.e. both across space and over time). To disentangle these possibilities we administered four diagnostic global motion and global form tasks to a large sample of adult readers (N = 106) to characterise their perceptual abilities. Two sets of analyses were conducted. First, to investigate if general reading ability is associated with performance on the visual tasks across the entire sample, a composite reading score was calculated and entered into a series of continuous regression analyses. Next, to investigate if the performance of readers with dyslexia differs from that of good readers on the visual tasks we identified a group of forty-three individuals for whom phonological decoding was specifically impaired, consistent with the dyslexic profile, and compared their performance with that of good readers who did not exhibit a phonemic deficit. Both analyses yielded a similar pattern of results. Consistent with previous research, coherence thresholds of poor readers were elevated on a random-dot global motion task and a spatially one-dimensional (1-D) global motion task, but no difference was found on a static global form task. However, our results extend those of previous studies by demonstrating that poor readers exhibited impaired performance on a temporally-defined global form task, a finding that is difficult to reconcile with the dorsal stream vulnerability hypothesis. This suggests that the visual deficit in developmental dyslexia does not reflect an impairment detecting motion per se. It is better characterised as a difficulty processing temporal information, which is exacerbated when local visual cues have to be integrated across multiple (>2) dimensions.

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