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Dinah Chen, Jorge Otero-Millan, Priyanka Kumar, Aasef G. Shaikh, Fatema F. Ghasia; Visual Search in Amblyopia: Abnormal Fixational Eye Movements and Suboptimal Sampling Strategies. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2018;59(11):4506-4517. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.18-24794.
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Microsaccades shift the image on the fovea and counteract visual fading. They are also thought to serve as an optimal sampling strategy while viewing complex visual scenes. The goal of our study was to assess visual search in amblyopic children.
Twenty-one amblyopic children with varying severity of amblyopia and 10 healthy controls were recruited. Eye movements were recorded using infrared video-oculography during amblyopic and fellow eye viewing while the subjects performed (1) visual fixation, (2) exploration of a blank scene, and (3) visual search task (spot the difference between two images). The number of correctly identified picture differences and reaction time were recorded. Microsaccade, saccades, and intersaccadic drifts were analyzed in patients without latent nystagmus (LN). Slow phase velocities were computed for patients with LN.
Both patients with and without LN were able to spot the same number of differences but took longer during fellow eye viewing compared to controls. The ability to identify differences was diminished during amblyopic eye viewing particularly those with LN and severe amblyopia. We found reduced frequencies of microsaccades and saccades in both amblyopic and fellow eyes during fixation and visual search but not during exploration of blank scene. Across all tasks, amblyopes with LN had increased intersaccadic drifts.
Our findings suggest that deficient microsaccade and saccadic activity contributes to poorer sampling strategy in amblyopia, which is seen in both amblyopic and fellow eye. These deficits are more notable among subjects who experienced binocular decorrelation earlier in life, with subsequent development of LN.
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