Can positions in the visual field with high attentional capabilities be good candidates for a new preferred retinal locus?

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The sustained component of visual attention lowers the perceptual threshold of stimuli located at the attended region. Attentional performance is not equal for all eccentric positions, leading to variations in perception. The location of the preferred retinal locus (PRL) for fixation might be influenced by these attentional variations. This study investigated the relation between the placement of sustained attention and the location of a developed PRL using simulations of central scotoma. Thirteen normally sighted subjects participated in the study. Monocular sustained attention was measured in discrete eccentric locations of the visual field using the dominant eye. Subsequently, a six degrees macular scotoma was simulated and PRL training was performed during eight ten-minutes blocks of trials. After training, every subject developed a PRL. Subjects with high attentional capabilities in the lower hemifield generally developed PRLs in the lower hemifield (n = 10), subjects with high attentional capabilities in the upper hemifield developed PRLs in the upper hemifield (n = 2) and one subject with similar attentional capabilities in the upper and lower hemifield developed the PRL on the upper hemifield. Analyzed individually, the results showed that 70% of the subjects had a PRL location in the hemifield where high attentional performance was achieved. These results suggest that attentional capabilities can be used as a predictor for the development of the PRL and are of significance for low vision rehabilitation and for the development of new PRL training procedures, with the option for a preventive attentional training in early macular disease to develop a favorable PRL.

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