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Interhemispheric cooperation in global–local visual processing in pediatric multiple sclerosis

Todorow M, DeSouza J, Banwell B, Till C

Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology


Impairments in visuospatial abilities are commonly reported in children and adolescents with multiple sclerosis (MS). Corpus callosum (CC) pathology occurs in patients with MS and may contribute to impairment in visuospatial perception, particularly when interhemispheric information transfer is required. This study used a global–local hierarchical letter paradigm to examine the relationship between interhemispheric information transfer and white matter integrity in the CC assessed using diffusion tensor imaging. Thirteen cognitively preserved pediatric-onset MS patients and 15 age-matched healthy controls were asked to determine whether a target letter E appeared at the attended level of the stimulus. As expected, both groups processed global and local information more slowly under divided than selective attention conditions. The MS group performed similarly to the control group with respect to reaction time and accuracy on selective and divided attention conditions, with one exception. Specifically, the presence of a global target when attending to a local target caused greater response conflict in the MS group than in controls (p = .01). Pooling both the patient and control data, greater response conflict was associated with reduced white matter integrity as indicated by lower fractional anisotropy in the anterior body of the CC (r = –.33, p < .05). Results suggest that reduced white matter integrity in anterior regions of the CC may lead to less efficient inhibition of task-irrelevant global information in the hierarchal processing of visual information.