Increased attentional demands impair contralesional space awareness following stroke

Mario Bonato, Konstantinos Priftis, Roberto Marenzi, Carlo Umiltà, Marco Zorzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rate and severity of contralesional loss of awareness following stroke is highly variable across patients and assessment methods. We studied whether the degree of impairment for contralesional space awareness depends on the quantity of attentional resources that are available for task performance. A new computer-based paradigm was used to assess visual extinction and single-target detection rate in four right hemisphere stroke patients. In the single-task condition, they had to report only the position of the target(s) (" right", "left", or "both" sides). In the dual-task conditions, patients also performed a second task, visual or auditory, that recruited additional attentional resources. The same tasks were also performed by healthy controls and by a left hemisphere stroke patient. Patients' performance was apparently unimpaired in the single-task condition. In contrast, dramatic failures to report the left-sided target emerged in the dual-task conditions. The performance of control participants was unaffected by the dual-task manipulation, whereas the left stroke patient showed the opposite pattern (i.e., unawareness of right-sided targets). Severe contralesional space unawareness under dual-task conditions reveals that visuospatial deficits can dramatically emerge when attentional resources are consumed by a concurrent task. Apparently spared contralesional awareness may simply reflect the availability of resources that are just sufficient to perform a single-task. This finding has important implications for the assessment of contralesional space awareness following stroke, because everyday life activities are often more demanding than most of the tests adopted for diagnosing space awareness disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3934-3940
Number of pages7
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


  • Attention
  • Contralesional space awareness
  • Extinction
  • Neglect
  • Neuropsychological assessment
  • Resources

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

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