Visual Working Memory and Visual Selective Attention among Survivors of Pediatric Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)
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The present study investigated the relationship between visual working memory (VWM) and visual selective attention in survivors of pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) either at high-risk or low-risk for neurocognitive impairments based on their treatment regimen and non-cancer controls. Previous investigations of neurocognitive impairments in survivors of pediatric ALL have employed broad-based measures of functioning whereas the present study utilized standard experimental measures that are sensitive to specific spatial and feature-based aspects of VWM and visual selective attention. A dual-task paradigm, combining a VWM task and a flanker task, assessing visual selective attention, was used. Participants ran in 6 dual-task conditions that varied in VWM feature/task (color, shape, location) and of the flanker feature/task (color, shape). Participants also ran in 3 single-task VWM control conditions and 2 single-task flanker conditions. Results reveal maintenance of information in VWM is susceptible to interference from the concurrent visual selective attention task for all three groups. VWM storage estimates, k, were shown to decrease when a VWM task was preceded by a visual selective attention task compared to a single VWM task. These interference effects were also found to be feature specific for all groups. For the visual selective attention tasks, both high and low-risk groups had lower performances on flanker tasks than non-cancer controls when collapsing across condition (single-task vs. dual-task). Only the low-risk group appeared to be susceptible to interference from a concurrent VWM task, with flanker effects (difference between incongruent and congruent reaction times) varying across conditions (single-task vs. dual-task). Thus, survivors of pediatric ALL are comparable with non-cancer controls in how visual selective interferes with WVM; however, visual selective attention for only the low-risk group was affected by VWM.