Visual search performance in cerebral visual impairment is associated with altered alpha band oscillations


Bennett CR, Bauer CM, Bex PJ, Bottari D, Merabet LB. Visual search performance in cerebral visual impairment is associated with altered alpha band oscillations. Neuropsychologia 2021;161:108011.

Date Published:

2021 10 15


Individuals with cerebral visual impairment (CVI) often present with deficits related to visuospatial processing. However, the neurophysiological basis underlying these higher order perceptual dysfunctions have not been clearly identified. We assessed visual search performance using a novel virtual reality based task paired with eye tracking to simulate the exploration of a naturalistic scene (a virtual toy box). This was combined with electroencephalography (EEG) recordings and an analysis pipeline focusing on time frequency decomposition of alpha oscillatory activity. We found that individuals with CVI showed an overall impairment in visual search performance (as indexed by decreased success rate, as well as increased reaction time, visual search area, and gaze error) compared to controls with neurotypical development. Analysis of captured EEG activity following stimulus onset revealed that in the CVI group, there was a distinct lack of strong and well defined posterior alpha desynchronization; an important signal involved in the coordination of neural activity related to visual processing. Finally, an exploratory analysis revealed that in CVI, the magnitude of alpha desynchronization was associated with impaired visual search performance as well as decreased volume of specific thalamic nuclei implicated in visual processing. These results suggest that impairments in visuospatial processing related to visual search in CVI are associated with alterations in alpha band oscillations as well as early neurological injury at the level of visual thalamic nuclei.

Last updated on 10/31/2021