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What is visual scanning?

Visual scanning is the ability to efficiently, quickly, and actively look for information relevant to your environment. It is what makes it possible to find what you’re looking for using just your vision. Visual scanning is an important skill for daily life, and makes it possible to efficiently carry out a number of different tasks.

Visual scanning is a function of visual perception that is aimed at detecting and recognizing visual stimuli. When you want to find something in your around you, your brain will automatically go through a series of interrelated processes:

  • Selective and Focused Attention: You need to be aware and focused on a stimulus in order to find it. Focused attention refers to the ability to focus your attention on a stimulus. Selective attention, however, is the ability to pay attention to a single stimulus when there are distracting stimuli present. This, along with cognitive shifting, makes it possible to take attention away from the target stimuli, change your attention to irrelevant stimuli, and go back to paying attention to the initial stimulus.
  • Visual Perception: Makes it possible to distinguish, identify, and interpret shapes, colors, and lights. This is when you make sense of the information that you receive from your eyes.
  • Recognition: Comparing the visual information you receive to determine whether or not you have prior experience with said information.
  • Visual Scanning: Looking through all or part of your field of view to try to compare what you’re seeing to what you’re looking for. You will stop looking as soon as you recognize the information that you’re looking for.

If any of these processes are altered, it would be impossible to locate a target object, either because you can’t find it (poor attention), because you can’t distinguish the object from its surroundings (poor perception), because you don’t recognize the stimulus (poor recognition), or because you don’t properly scan the area (poor visual scanning).

Cognitive training can help improve visual scanning.

Examples of visual scanning

  • There are a number of jobs that require visual scanning. Police officers or members of the military have to be able to quickly and precisely detect objects that may be dangerous. Store employees have to use visual scanning to keep an eye out for products that may be misplaces or clients that need help. Almost any job has some level of a visual component that requires good visual scanning.
  • Students are constantly using visual scanning at school, whether it’s to pay attention to the board, read a book, or understand a presentation. It would difficult to study new material if the student is unable to find the word or idea in their notes or textbooks when they are trying to review the information before a test.
  • Driving requires you to constantly be on the lookout for other cars, accidents, potential hazards, traffic signs, pedestrians, and a number of any other objects or situations. Poor visual scanning may inhibit your ability to successfully scan the environment for potential problems, decreasing your driving ability.
  • Visual scanning is an essential part of playing sports. Most sports require you to easily and quickly scan the space for relevant stimuli, which may be teammates, rivals, a ball, goal, or any other vital component of the game. If you are playing football and want to pass the ball to a teammate, you have to visually scan the field to find him or her and then pass the ball to them.

Problems and disorders related to poor visual scanning

Occasionally losing the remote or your car keys doesn’t mean that your visual scanning is lacking. A real problem with visual scanning can lead to potential problems if you can find the target stimulus that you’re looking for. Poor visual scanning can significantly affect daily activities

Visual scanning can be affected by a number of problems or disorders. Hemispatial neglect, or hemineglect is one of the disorders that most affects visual scanning, and is characterized by an inability to attend to stimuli on a certain side of the body (inability to detect objects that are on the left side, for example). However, problems with visual perception or processing, like anopsia or blindness can also alter visual scanning. Problems recognizing a stimulus also occur with agnosia, which can cause problems with visual scanning. Finally, problems in the oculomotor muscles or the strategy to find an object would also be present with deficient visual scanning.

How can you measure and assess visual scanning?

Visual scanning makes it possible to quickly and accurately do a large number of daily activities, which is why knowing how well this skill works can be helpful in a number of daily areas. Academics: to know if a student will have trouble detecting the information on the board that is being covered in class. Clinical/Medical Areas: to know is a patient will be able to find their medication, drive, or get through their daily life with no problems. Professional Areas: to know if a truck driver will be able to drive safely, or to be sure that an employee will be able to attend to customers correctly.

The complete neuropsychological assessment makes it possible to reliably assess a number of cognitive abilities, like visual scanning. CogniFit’s test to assess visual scanning is based on the classic Continuous Performance Test (CPT), the Test of Memory Malingering (TOMM), Hooper Visual Organization Task (VOT), the Test of Variables of Attention (TOVA), and the Tower of London (TOL) tests. Aside from visual scanning, these tasks also measure response time, processing speed, working memory, spatial perception, visual perception, hand-eye coordination, and focus.

  • Resolution Test REST-SPER: A number of moving stimuli will appear on the screen. The user has to click on the target stimuli as quickly as possible, without clicking on irrelevant stimuli
  • Programming Test VIPER-PLAN: Move a ball through a maze as quickly as possible, and in as few moves as possible.
  • Recognition Test WOM-REST: Three objects appear on the screen. The user will have to memorize the order in which the objects are presented. Later, four options with three objects will appear, and the user will have to identify which of the options is the same as the initial objects shown.
  • Speed Test REST-HECOOR: A blue square will appear on the screen. The user must click as quickly and as many times as possible in the middle of the square. The more times the user clicks, the higher the score.
  • Exploration Test SCAVI-REST: The user must find the target letter (on the left of the screen) in a field of letters as quickly as possible. The target letter will change as the user advances.

How can you recover or improve visual scanning?

Every cognitive skill, including visual scanning, can be trained and improved. CogniFit may help make this possible.

Neuroplasticity is the basis of the rehabilitation of our cognitive skills. CogniFit has a battery of exercises designed to improve deficits of visual scanning and other cognitive functions. The brain and its neurons get stronger and more efficient through use and practice, which is why visual scanning can improve by consistently training the neural connections it uses.

The CogniFit team is made up professionals in the field of synaptic plasticity and neurogenesis, and is how the personalized cognitive stimulation program was created to meet the needs of each user. This program starts with a comprehensive assessment of visual scanning and other fundamental cognitive functions. With the results from this initial assessment, the personalized cognitive stimulation program will automatically offer a training program to help train the user’s weakest cognitive skills.

Consistency and adequate training are the essential to a successful visual short-term memory training program. CogniFit has assessments and rehabilitation programs to help optimize this cognitive function. This program only requires 15 minutes a day, two or three times a week.

The cognitive stimulation program from CogniFit is available online and on mobile devices. There are a number of interactive games an exercises that can be played anywhere. After each session, CogniFit will show you a detailed graph of the user’s cognitive progress.

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