Indexed on: 17 Aug '12Published on: 17 Aug '12Published in: Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society
The sensory abnormalities associated with disorders such as dyslexia, autism and schizophrenia have often been attributed to a generalized deficit in the visual magnocellular-dorsal stream and its auditory homologue. To probe magnocellular function, various psychophysical tasks are often employed that require the processing of rapidly changing stimuli. But is performance on these several tasks supported by a common substrate? To answer this question, we tested a cohort of 1060 individuals on four 'magnocellular tasks': detection of low-spatial-frequency gratings reversing in contrast at a high temporal frequency (so-called frequency-doubled gratings); detection of pulsed low-spatial-frequency gratings on a steady luminance pedestal; detection of coherent motion; and auditory discrimination of temporal order. Although all tasks showed test-retest reliability, only one pair shared more than 4 per cent of variance. Correlations within the set of 'magnocellular tasks' were similar to the correlations between those tasks and a 'non-magnocellular task', and there was little consistency between 'magnocellular deficit' groups comprising individuals with the lowest sensitivity for each task. Our results suggest that different 'magnocellular tasks' reflect different sources of variance, and thus are not general measures of 'magnocellular function'.