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Open Access Research article

Pro- and antisaccades in children elicited by visual and acoustic targets - does modality matter?

Johanna Goepel1*, Stefanie C Biehl2, Johanna Kissler13 and Isabella Paul-Jordanov1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Konstanz, 78457 Konstanz, Germany

2 Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatics, and Psychotherapy, University of Würzburg, 97080 Würzburg, Germany

3 Department of Psychologiy, Universtity of Bielefeld, 33501 Bielefeld, Germany

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BMC Pediatrics 2011, 11:116  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-11-116

Published: 16 December 2011

Abstract

Background

Children are able to inhibit a prepotent reaction to suddenly arising visual stimuli, although this skill is not yet as pronounced as it is in adulthood. However, up to now the inhibition mechanism to acoustic stimuli has been scarcely investigated

Methods

Reflexive (prosaccade) and inhibitory (antisaccade) responses to visual and acoustic targets were examined with an eye tracker system in 31 children between seven and twelve years of age using a gap-overlap task and two target eccentricities.

Results

Acoustically cued saccades had longer reaction times than visually cued saccades. A gap effect (i.e., shorter reaction time in the gap than the overlap condition) was only found for visually elicited saccades, whereas an eccentricity effect (i.e., faster saccades to more laterally presented targets - 12° vs. 6° or rather 90° vs. 45°) was only present in the acoustic condition. Longer reaction times of antisaccades compared to prosaccades were found only in the visual task. Across both tasks the typical pattern of elevated error rates in the antisaccade condition was found. Antisaccade errors declined with age, indicating an ongoing development of inhibitory functions.

Conclusions

The present results lay the ground for further studies of acoustically triggered saccades in typically as well as atypically developing children and it might thus be possible to upgrade physiological diagnostic tools.