A specific disruption in the ability to automatically disengage attention from its previous focus has been hypothesized to account for the extinction phenomenon often observed in the unilateral spatial neglect syndrome. Recent literature, however, also brings out the role played in neglect by an imbalance in the attentional orienting systems, resulting in an early shift of attention towards the side of space ipsilateral to the brain lesion. In the present study we hypothesized that this attentional bias in orienting of attention might be demonstrated in a paradigm of simple reaction time to lateralized visual stimuli by contrasting the presence vs the absence on the computer screen of the square boxes used to facilitate position expectancy. A main prediction was made that patients with neglect would show a significant increase in reaction times to contralateral visual stimuli in the presence of bilateral reference boxes as compared to conditions in which no boxes were displayed. The right-sided box was in fact expected to exert an early attraction on the patient's attention, thus modifying the pattern of reaction times to the proper targets. This prediction was confirmed in right brain-damaged patients with moderate to severe neglect.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Behavioral Neuroscience
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology