Three tachistoscopic tasks were employed to assess whether survivors of severe closed head injury (CHI) exhibit a disturbance of information processing within peripheral and/or central visual pathways. Twelve survivors of severe CHI and 12 individually matched control subjects completed a recognition threshold (no mask) task, a monoptic, forward masking by visual noise task (to assess processing within relatively peripheral pathways), and a dichoptic, backward masking by pattern task (to assess processing within central pathways). For each experimental procedure, the minimum exposure durations required by subjects to identify correctly single consonants and triple consonants were determined. Survivors of severe CHI showed deficits on all three visual tasks. Both groups also had higher threshold durations for the more complex stimuli (triple v single consonants), but differences in threshold were greater in the patients with CHI. The degree of perceptual impairment exhibited by patients with CHI was highly variable and not consistently related to injury characteristics or residual motor or speech and language impairment.
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