Neglect as a deficit determined by an imbalance between multiple spatial representations

E Làdavas, A Berti, E Ruozzi, F Barboni
Experimental Brain Research. Experimentelle Hirnforschung. Expérimentation Cérébrale 1997, 116 (3): 493-500
A previous study on neglect suggested that at least two hand parameters are crucial in producing an amelioration of neglect: the hand (left or right) and the spatial position of the hand (left or right). The improvement observed in perceiving left targets when the left hand acts in the left space can be due either to proprioceptive or to visual cuing. The stimulated left hand located in the left space may act as a powerful visual cue for the enhancement of the left visuo-spatial representation, in the same way as any other visual stimulus presented in the periphery of the visual field. Alternatively, it may be that the perceived hand location (due to the activation of the proprioceptive system) acts as an attentional field able to enhance the representation of the left space. In order to disentangle these two hypotheses, in the present study a naming task was executed by a group of neglect patients and by a control group. The subjects had to name all the objects depicted on a sheet of paper which were reflected on a mirror that inverted right and left space. While doing the naming performance, the subjects passively moved either the right or the left hand, in the left or right space. Stimuli and hand were reflected in the mirror that inverted right and left space and direct view of the stimuli and of the stimulated hand was prevented by a board. The results show that patients were more accurate at naming stimuli reflected in the left side of the mirror when the left hand was located and moved on the left side. In this condition, however, the left hand was seen in the right side of the mirror. It is therefore clear that the better performance was not due to visuo-spatial cuing but to a proprioceptive cuing effect. The results are discussed in terms of the relevance of personal and peripersonal spatial activation in the modulation of extrapersonal visual neglect. The coactivation of different spatial representations seems to be very influential on stimulus coding, thus confirming that spatial awareness is strictly related to the joint activity of multiple brain maps.

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