Unilateral neglect may be a multicomponent attentional disorder consisting of an initial automatic orienting of attention toward the ipsilesional side and a subsequent impairment in contralesionally reorienting attention, both of which are superimposed on a generalised reduction in attention resources. It has been hypothesised that patients' ability to reorient attention contralesionally may recover relatively quickly, but that the ipsilesional attention bias may be relatively persistent. This hypothesis was tested by consecutively examining 13 patients who had had a right hemisphere stroke, and who had left unilateral neglect. They were examined once shortly after the stroke and again 12 months later, using a battery of standard clinical and experimental tasks. Patients initially showed a strong and consistent rightward attentional bias in addition to a failure to reorient their attention leftward. After 12 months patients continued to show an abnormal ipsilesional attentional bias, though most were now able to fully reorient their attention toward the contralesional side. These results suggest that restitution of the capacity to reorient attention contralesionally may underlie the apparent recovery from clinical signs of unilateral neglect. The presence of a residual ipsilesional attentional bias in most patients, however, may, at least in part, account for the poor functional outcomes in some apparently "recovered" patients.
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