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Early orientation of attention toward the half space ipsilateral to the lesion in patients with unilateral brain damage.
  1. G Gainotti,
  2. P D'Erme,
  3. P Bartolomeo
  1. Institute of Neurology, Catholic University, Rome, Italy.


    Posner has suggested that unilateral spatial neglect could be due to a difficulty in disengaging attention from its current focus to orient it toward the neglected half space. Clinical and experimental data suggest, however, that this disengaging difficulty could be only one aspect of a more complex disturbance also characterized by an early automatic orienting of attention toward the half space ipsilateral to the lesion. To test this hypothesis, two different investigations in unselected groups of patients with right and left brain-damage were carried out. The first investigation, to evaluate forms of lateral orienting of attention severe enough to provoke an overt gaze deviation, consisted of the systematic assessment of the phenomenon of "magnetic gaze attraction". The second investigation, to detect milder forms of automatic orienting of attention, analysed the temporal sequence followed in identifying the pictures represented in an "Overlapping Figures task", to see if patients tended to identify first figures lying in the half space ipsilateral to the lesion. In both investigations results consistently showed: a) that patients with right brain damage tend to orient attention automatically toward the ipsilateral half space more than patients with left brain damage; b) that this tendency is tightly linked to the presence of behavioural manifestations of hemi-neglect. These results are therefore consistent with the hypothesis that hemi-neglect is a multi-component syndrome with an early orienting of attention toward the half space ipsilateral to the lesion as the first of these components.

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