The disengagement of visual attention: an eye-tracking study of cognitive impairment, ethnicity and age
Various studies have shown that Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is associated with an impairment of inhibitory control, although we do not have a comprehensive understanding of the associated cognitive processes. The ability to engage and disengage attention is a crucial cognitive operation of inhibitory control and can be readily investigated using the “gap effect” in a saccadic eye movement paradigm. In previous work, various demographic factors were confounded; therefore, here, we examine separately the effects of cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s disease, ethnicity/culture and age. This study included young (N = 44) and old (N = 96) European participants, AD (N = 32), mildly cognitively impaired participants (MCI: N = 47) and South Asian older adults (N = 94). A clear reduction in the mean reaction times was detected in all the participant groups in the gap condition compared to the overlap condition, confirming the effect. Importantly, this effect was also preserved in participants with MCI and AD. A strong effect of age was also evident, revealing a slowing in the disengagement of attention during the natural process of ageing.
EPSRC Grant EP/M006255/1
Sir John Fisher Foundation
- Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences