Frontiers in Neuroscience

Distinct eye movement patterns to complex scenes in Alzheimer's disease and Lewy body disease

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Background: Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Lewy body disease (LBD), the two most common causes of neurodegenerative dementia with similar clinical manifestations, both show impaired visual attention and altered eye movements. However, prior studies have used structured tasks or restricted stimuli, limiting the insights into how eye movements alter and differ between AD and LBD in daily life. Objective: We aimed to comprehensively characterize eye movements of AD and LBD patients on naturalistic complex scenes with broad categories of objects, which would provide a context closer to real-world free viewing, and to identify disease-specific patterns of altered eye movements. Methods: We collected spontaneous viewing behaviors to 200 naturalistic complex scenes from patients with AD or LBD at the prodromal or dementia stage, as well as matched control participants. We then investigated eye movement patterns using a computational visual attention model with high-level image features of object properties and semantic information. Results: Compared with matched controls, we identified two disease-specific altered patterns of eye movements: diminished visual exploration, which differentially correlates with cognitive impairment in AD and with motor impairment in LBD; and reduced gaze allocation to objects, attributed to a weaker attention bias toward high-level image features in AD and attributed to a greater image-center bias in LBD. Conclusion: Our findings may help differentiate AD and LBD patients and comprehend their real-world visual behaviors to mitigate the widespread impact of impaired visual attention on daily activities.