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Hemispheric Asymmetry in TMS-Induced Effects on Spatial Attention: A Meta-Analysis.

Neuropsychology Review 2023 September 23
Hemispheric asymmetry is a fundamental principle in the functional architecture of the brain. It plays an important role in attention research where right hemisphere dominance is core to many attention theories. Lesion studies seem to confirm such hemispheric dominance with patients being more likely to develop left hemineglect after right hemispheric stroke than vice versa. However, the underlying concept of hemispheric dominance is still not entirely clear. Brain stimulation studies using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) might be able to illuminate this concept. To examine the putative hemispheric asymmetry in spatial attention, we conducted a meta-analysis of studies applying inhibitory TMS protocols to the left or right posterior parietal cortices (PPC), assessing effects on attention biases with the landmark and line bisection task. A total of 18 studies including 222 participants from 1994 to February 2022 were identified. The analysis revealed a significant shift of the perceived midpoint towards the ipsilateral hemifield after right PPC suppression (Cohen's d = 0.52), but no significant effect after left PPC suppression (Cohen's d = 0.26), suggesting a hemispheric asymmetry even though the subgroup difference does not reach significance (p = .06). A complementary Bayesian meta-analysis revealed a high probability of at least a medium effect size after right PPC disruption versus a low probability after left PPC disruption. This is the first quantitative meta-analysis supporting right hemisphere-specific TMS-induced spatial attention deficits, mimicking hemineglect in healthy participants. We discuss the result in the light of prominent attention theories, ultimately concluding how difficult it remains to differentiate between these theories based on attentional bias scores alone.

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