Non-spatial neglect for the mental number line

Jean Philippe van Dijck, Wim Gevers, Christophe Lafosse, Fabrizio Doricchi, Wim Fias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Several psychophysical investigations, expanding the classical introspective observations by Galton, have suggested that the mental representation of numbers takes the form of a number line along which magnitude is positioned in ascending order according to reading habits, i.e. from left to right in Western cultures. In keeping with the evidence, pathological rightward deviations in the bisection of number intervals due to right brain damage are generally interpreted as originating from a purely spatial-attentional deficit in the processing of the left side of number intervals. However, consistent double dissociations between defective processing of the left side of physical and mental number space have called into question the universality of this interpretation. Recent evidence suggests a link between rightward deviations in number space and defective memory for both spatial and non-spatial sequences of items. Here we describe the case of a left brain-damaged patient exhibiting right-sided neglect for extrapersonal and representational space, and left-sided neglect on the mental number line. Accurate neuropsychological examination revealed that the apparent left-sided neglect in the bisection of number intervals had a purely non-spatial origin and was based on mnemonic difficulties for the initial items of verbal sequences presented visually at an identical spatial position. These findings show that effective position-based verbal working memory might be crucial for numerical tasks that are usually considered to involve purely spatial representation of numerical magnitudes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2570-2583
Number of pages14
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


  • Attention
  • Neuropsychology
  • Numbers
  • Space
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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