The "zoom lens" of focal attention in visual search: Changes in aging and Alzheimer's disease

Alexander Rösler*, Mark Mapstone, Alissa Hays-Wicklund, Darren R. Gitelman, Sandra Weintraub

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Visual search for a target in an array of distractors relies upon flexible shifts between global and local modes of attentional processing. Visual search is slowed in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD), in part due to an increase in the number and duration of eye fixations made en route to a target (Rösler et al., 2000). This phenomenon may represent a compensatory adaptation to a narrowing of the zone of focal attention, necessitating more shifts of gaze in order to attend to the global workspace. Eye fixations were analyzed in two regions of interest (ROIs, central fixation and peripheral target locations) in 9 patients with mild AD, 9 cognitively intact age-matched control subjects, and 9 young controls, while they searched for a target object in a radial array that contained from 1 to 6 stimuli. Contrasted with young subjects, the search strategy of older controls and, to a greater extent, AD patients showed an increase in the average number and duration of peripheral fixations. Reduced efficiency of visual search in AD may be contributed to by reduced ability to dynamically adjust the attentional zoom, coupled with the inability to disengage attention from peripheral targets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)512-519
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2005


  • Aging
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Attention
  • Dementia
  • Visual search

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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