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Hemispatial neglect: its effects on visual perception and visually guided grasping

journal contribution
posted on 01.01.2003, 00:00 authored by Jonathan Marotta, Thomas J. McKeeff, Marlene BehrmannMarlene Behrmann

Hemispatial neglect is a neurological disorder characterized by a failure to represent information appearing in the hemispace contralateral to a brain lesion. In addition to the perceptual consequences of hemispatial neglect, several authors have reported that hemispatial neglect impairs visually guided movements. Others have reported that the extent of the impairment depends on the type of visually guided task. Finally, in some cases, neglect has been shown to impair visual perception without affecting visuomotor control in relation to the very same stimuli. While neglect patients may be able to successfully pick up an object they have difficulty perceiving in its entirety, it does not mean that they are picking up the object in the same way that a neurologically intact individual would. In the current study, patients with hemispatial neglect were presented with irregularly shaped objects, directly in front of them, that lacked clear symmetry and required an analysis of their entire contour in order to calculate stable grasp points. In a perceptual discrimination task, the neglect patients had difficulty distinguishing one object from another on the basis of their shape. In a grasping task, the neglect patients showed more variance in the position of their grasp on the target objects than their control subjects, with an overall shift to the relative right side of the presented objects. The perceptual and visuomotor deficits seen in patients with hemispatial neglect deficits may be the result of an inability to form good structural representations of the entire object for use in visual perception and visuomotor control.