Neglect of Awareness

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Abstract:

We describe some of the signs and symptoms of left visuo-spatial neglect. This common, severe and often long-lasting impairment is the most striking consequence of right hemisphere brain damage. Patients seem to (over-)attend to the right with subsequent inability to respond to stimuli in contralesional space. We draw particular attention to how patients themselves experience neglect. Furthermore, we show that the neglect patient's loss of awareness of left space is crucial to an understanding of the condition. Even after left space has been brought into the patient's consciousness (either by local cueing on the left or by an emphasis on global properties of the scene as a whole), this awareness of left space rapidly declines. We suggest that much of the symptomology of left neglect can be interpreted as a disconnection between brain mechanisms that are relatively specialized for local (detail) visual processing and global (panoramic) processing. This failure of communication between functional (subpersonal) mechanisms then has consequences for how perceptual and representational content enters into awareness. Failure of the local contents of left space to be consciously accessed is, in turn, an important aspect of why left neglect is so difficult to remediate. Patients can “know” that they have neglect but are cut off from the perceptual awareness that would enable them to overcome their attentional bias to the right.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom 2: Department of Clinical Neurology, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom

Publication date: September 1, 1998

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