Abstract

Brain-damaged subjects who had previously been identified as suffering from a visual attention deficit for contralesional stimulation were tested on a series of visual search tasks. The experiments examined the hypothesis that the processing of single features is preattentive but that feature integration, necessary for the correct perception of conjunctions of features, requires attention (Treisman & Gelade, 1980 Treisman & Sato, 1990). Subjects searched for a feature target (orientation or color) or for a conjunction target (orientation and color) in unilateral displays in which the number of items presented was variable. Ocular fixation was controlled so that trials on which eye movements occurred were cancelled. While brain-damaged subjects with a visual attention disorder (VAD subjects) performed similarly to normal controls in feature search tasks, they showed a marked deficit in conjunction search. Specifically, VAD subjects exhibited an important reduction of their serial search rates for a conjunction target with contralesional displays. In support of Treisman's feature integration theory, a visual attention deficit leads to a marked impairment in feature integration whereas it does not appear to affect feature encoding.

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