Deficits in inefficient visual search task performance in Alzheimer's disease (AD) have been linked both to a general depletion of attentional resources and to a specific difficulty in performing conjunction discriminations. It has been difficult to examine the latter proposal because the uniqueness of conjunction search as compared to other visual search tasks has remained a matter of debate. We explored both these claims by measuring pupil dilation, as a measure of resource application, while patients with AD performed a conjunction search task and two single-feature search tasks of similar difficulty in healthy individuals. Maximum pupil dilation in the AD group was greater during performance of the conjunction than the feature search tasks, although pupil response was indistinguishable for the three tasks in healthy controls. This, together with patients' false positive errors for the conjunction task, indicates an AD-specific deficit impacting upon the ability to combine information on multiple dimensions. In addition, maximum pupil dilation was no less for patients than the control group during task performance, which tends to oppose the concept of general resource depletion in AD. However, eye movement patterns in the patient group indicated that they were less able than controls to use organised strategies to assist with task performance. The data are therefore in keeping with a loss of access to resource-saving strategies, rather than a loss of resources per se, in AD. Moreover they demonstrate an additional processing mechanism in performing conjunction search compared with inefficient single-feature search.
|Translated title of the contribution
|New insights into feature and conjunction search: II. Evidence from Alzheimer’s disease
|637 - 649
|Number of pages
|Early online date
|12 Jun 2009
|Published - May 2010