Oculomotor and inhibitory control in dyslexia

Thomas Wilcockson, Diako Mardanbegi, Peter Sawyer, Hans Gellersen, Baiqiang Xia, Trevor Crawford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research has suggested that people with dyslexia may have an impairment of inhibitory control. The oculomotor system is vulnerable to interference at various levels of the system, from high level cognitive control to peripheral neural pathways. Therefore, in this work we examined two forms of oculomotor inhibition and two forms of oculomotor interference at high and low levels of the control system. This study employed a prosaccade, antisaccade, and a recent distractor eye movement task (akin to a spatial negative priming) in order to explore high level cognitive control and the inhibition of a competing distractor. To explore low-level control we examined the frequency of microsaccades and post-saccade oscillations. The findings demonstrated that dyslexics have an impairment of volitional inhibitory control, reflected in the antisaccade task. In contrast, inhibitory control at the location of a competing distractor was equivalent in the dyslexic and non-dyslexic groups. There was no difference in the frequency of microsaccades between the two groups. However, the dyslexic group generated larger microsaccades prior to the target onset in the prosaccade and the antisaccade tasks.The groups did not differ in the frequency or in the morphology of the post-saccade oscillations. These findings reveal that the word reading and attentional difficulties of dyslexic readers cannot be attributed to an impairment in the inhibition of a visual distractor or interference from low-level oculomotor instability. We propose that the inhibitory impairment in dyslexia occurs at a higher cognitive level, perhaps in relation to the process of attentional disengagement.
Original languageEnglish
Article number66
Pages (from-to)66
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Systems Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2018 Wilcockson, Mardanbegi, Sawyer, Gellersen, Xia and Crawford. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


  • Dyslexia
  • Eye movements
  • Eye tracking
  • Inhibition
  • Microsaccades
  • Post-saccadic oscillations


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