Dalrymple, K., Gray, A. K., Brielle, L. P., Birmingham, E., Bischof, W. F., and Kingstone, A. (2013). Eying the eyes in social scenes: Evidence for top-down control of stimulus selection in simultanagnosia. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 30(1), 25-40.
Simultanagnosia is a disorder of visual attention resulting from bilateral parieto-occipital lesions. Healthy individuals look at eyes to infer people's attentional states, but simultanagnosics allocate abnormally few fixations to eyes in scenes. It is unclear why simultanagnosics fail to fixate eyes, but it might reflect that they are 1) unable to locate and fixate them, or, 2) do not prioritize attentional states. We compared eye movements of simultanagnosic GB to healthy subjects viewing scenes normally or through a restricted window of vision. They described scenes and explicitly inferred attentional states of people in scenes. GB and subjects viewing scenes through a restricted window made few fixations on eyes when describing scenes, yet increased fixations on eyes when inferring attention. Thus GB understands that eyes are important for inferring attentional states and can exert top-down control to seek out and processes the gaze of others when attentional states are of interest.
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