Thursday, July 17, 2008

SSSR meeting

Recently got back from the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading conference, where I chaired a symposium, with Nikki Pitchford and Daisy Powell, on orthographic learning. We were heartened that there seems to be an increasing openness to the importance of visual/orthographic processing in reading, and felt that the symposium was well received.

Nikki gave a talk on RT patterns for letter search in 5-letters arrays in English, English dyslexic, and Greek readers. Her Greek data have caused me to reconsider my explanation of the final-letter effect somewhat, which I'll address in a subsequent post.

Daisy discussed experiments with poor readers without phonological deficits but with Rapid Automatized Naming deficits. These subjects had poorer orthographic knowledge than controls in general, but actually out-performed controls on orthographic learning in Share's self-teaching task. (In this task, pseudowords are included in passages read by subjects, and the subjects are later tested on the spelling of the pseudowords.) These were four-letter pseudowords. It would be interesting to try the experiment with longer pseudowords, as I think that four letters can be processed in parallel by dyslexics, and whereas processing should particularly break down on longer words. So the poor readers may depend on visual information more than the controls, and be capable of remembering this visual information better than controls for strings up to four letters.

Sylviane presented longitudinal data showing that her Visual Attention Span measure (the number of letters than can be reported following brief presentation of five letters) is predictive of reading achievement. Sylviane and I are both interested in gaining a better understanding of whether this task measures a general deficit in the ability to distribute visual attention across multiple objects, or is more specific to learned orthographic processing. As I mentioned in a previous post, it may well measure both, and a deficit may arise at different levels in different subjects.

Piers wowed everyone with MEG data showing early (~100 ms post-target) phonological priming in IFG and precentral gyrus.

I harped on my favorite subject - perceptual patterns for identification of briefly presented strings, and suggested that the trigram identification task could be used to measure whether normal visual/orthographic processing has been learned. In particular, the SERIOL model predicts that, at a given eccentricity, increased letter position within a string should have a much larger detrimental effect on accuracy in the LVF than the RVF for normal readers. Thus they should show an VF asymmetry on the effect of string position. If normal string processing has not been learned, the pattern should be symmetric, with little effect of string position in either VF. Data from 1 seventh-grade dyslexic and 7 age-matched controls, from Dubois et al. (2007), support this proposal, as discussed in this post. Clearly "more research is required".

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