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Flicker fusion thresholds as a clinical identifier of a magnocellular-deficit dyslexic subgroup
journal contributionposted on 05.01.2021, 01:51 by Jessica Peters, Edith Bavin, Alyse Brown, David Crewther, Sheila Crewther
The magnocellular-dorsal system is well isolated by high temporal frequency. However, temporal processing thresholds have seldom been explored in developmental dyslexia nor its subtypes. Hence, performances on two, four-alternative forced-choice achromatic flicker fusion threshold tasks modulated at low (5%) and high (75%) temporal contrast were compared in dyslexic and neurotypical children individually matched for age and intelligence (8-12 years, n = 54 per group). As expected, the higher modulation resulted in higher flicker fusion thresholds in both groups. Compared to neurotypicals, the dyslexic group displayed significantly lower ability to detect flicker at high temporal frequencies, both at low and high temporal contrast. Yet, discriminant analysis did not adequately distinguish the dyslexics from neurotypicals, on the basis of flicker thresholds alone. Rather, two distinct dyslexic subgroups were identified by cluster analysis - one characterised by significantly lower temporal frequency thresholds than neurotypicals (referred to as 'Magnocellular-Deficit' dyslexics; 53.7%), while the other group ('Magnocellular-Typical' dyslexics; 46.3%) had comparable thresholds to neurotypicals. The two dyslexic subgroups were not differentially associated with phonological or naming speed subtypes and showed comparable mean reading rate impairments. However, correlations between low modulation flicker fusion threshold and reading rate for the two subgroups were significantly different (p = .0009). Flicker fusion threshold performances also showed strong classification accuracy (79.3%) in dissociating the Magnocellular-Deficit dyslexics and neurotypicals. We propose that temporal visual processing impairments characterize a previously unidentified subgroup of dyslexia and suggest that measurement of flicker fusion thresholds could be used clinically to assist early diagnosis and appropriate treatment recommendations for dyslexia.