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Recent research has shown that reading disabled children find it unusually difficult to detect flickering or moving visual stimuli, consistent with impaired processing in the magnocellular visual stream. Yet, it remains controversial to suggest that reduced visual sensitivity of this kind might affect children's reading. Here we suggest that when children read, impaired magnocellular function may degrade information about where letters are positioned with respect to each other, leading to reading errors which contain sounds not represented in the printed word. We call these orthographically inconsistent nonsense errors "letter" errors. To test this idea we assessed magnocellular function in a sample of 58 unselected children by using a coherent motion detection task. We then gave these children a single word reading task and found that their "letter" errors were best explained by independent contributions from motion detection (i.e., magnocellular function) and phonological awareness (assessed by a spoonerism task). This result held even when chronological age, reading ability, and IQ were controlled for. These findings suggest that impaired magnocellular visual function, as well as phonological deficits may affect how children read.

Original publication




Journal article


Vision Res

Publication Date





471 - 482


Child, Dyslexia, Geniculate Bodies, Humans, Logistic Models, Mathematics, Motion Perception, Psychological Tests, Sensory Thresholds