Direct evidence from parietal extinction of enhancement of visual attention near a visible hand

Giuseppe Di Pellegrino, Francesca Frassinetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Brain areas exist that appear to be specialized for the coding of visual space surrounding the body (peripersonal space). In marked contrast to neurons in earlier visual areas, cells have been reported in parietal and frontal lobes that effectively respond only when visual stimuli are located in spatial proximity to a particular body part (for example, face, arm or hand) [1-4]. Despite several single-cell studies, the representation of near visual space has scarcely been investigated in humans. Here we focus on the neuropsychological phenomenon of visual extinction following unilateral brain damage. Patients with this disorder may respond well to a single stimulus in either visual field; however, when two stimuli are presented concurrently, the contralesional stimulus is disregarded or poorly identified. Extinction is commonly thought to reflect a pathological bias in selective vision favoring the ipsilesional side under competitive conditions, as a result of the unilateral brain lesion [5-7]. We examined a parietally damaged patient (D.P.) to determine whether visual extinction is modulated by the position of the hands in peripersonal space. We measured the severity of visual extinction in a task which held constant visual and spatial information about stimuli, while varying the distance between hands and stimuli. We found that selection in the affected visual field was remarkably more efficient when visual events were presented in the space near the contralesional finger than far from it. However, the amelioration of extinction dissolved when hands were covered from view, implying that the effect of hand position was not mediated purely through proprioception. These findings illustrate the importance of the spatial relationship between hand position and object location for the internal construction of visual peripersonal space in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1475-1477
Number of pages3
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - Nov 16 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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