Spatial neglect Balint-Homes' and Gerstmann's syndrome, and other spatial disorders

Giuseppe Vallar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Brain-damaged patients with lesion or dysfunction involving the parietal cortex may show a variety of neuropsychological impairments involving spatial cognition. The more frequent and disabling deficit is the syndrome of unilateral spatial neglect that, in a nutshell, consists in a bias of spatial representation and attention ipsilateral to of extrapersonal, personal (ie, the body) space, or both, toward the side of the hemispheric lesion. The deficit is more frequent and severe after damage to the right hemisphere, involving particularly the posterior-inferior parietal cortex at the temporo-parietal junction. Damage to these posterior parietal regions may also impair visuospatial short-term memory, which may be associated with and worsen spatial neglect. The neural network supporting spatial representation, attention and short-term memory is, however, more extensive, including the right premotor cortex. Also disorders of drawing and building objects (traditionally termed constructional apraxia) are a frequent indicator of posterior parietal damage in the left and in the right hemispheres. Other less frequent deficits, which, however, have a relevant localizing value, include optic ataxia (namely, the defective reaching of visual objects, in the absence of elementary visuo-motor impairments), which is typically brought about by damage to the superior parietal lobule. Optic ataxia, together with deficits of visual attention, of estimating distances and depth, and with apraxia of gaze, constitutes the severely disabling Balint-Holmes' syndrome, which is typically associated with bilateral posterior parietal and occipital damage. Finally, lesions of the posterior parietal lobule (angular gyrus) in the left hemisphere may bring about a tetrad of symptoms (left-right disorientation, acalculia, finger agnosia, and agraphia) termed Gerstmann's syndrome, that also exists in a developmental form.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-536
Number of pages10
JournalCNS Spectrums
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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