ABSTRACT: Attention can be directed to spatial locations or to objects in space. Patients with left unilateral spatial neglect are slow to respond to a left-sided target when it is preceded by a right-sided "invalid" cue, particularly at short cue-target intervals, suggesting an impairment in disengaging attention from the right side in order to orient it leftward. We wondered whether this deficit is purely spatial, or it is influenced by the presence of a right-sided visual object. To answer this question, we tested 10 right brain-damaged patients with chronic left-neglect and 41 control participants on a cued response time (RT) detection task in which targets could appear in either of two lateral boxes. In different conditions, non-informative peripheral cues either consisted in the brightening of the contour of one lateral box (onset cue condition), or in the complete disappearance of one lateral box (offset cue condition). The target followed the cue at different stimulus-onset asynchronies (SOAs). If the disengagement deficit (DD) is purely space-based, then it should not vary across the two cueing conditions. With onset cues, patients showed a typical DD at short SOAs. With offset cues, however, the DD disappeared. Thus, patients did not show any DD when there was no object from which attention must be disengaged. These findings indicate that the attentional bias in left-neglect does not concern spatial locations per se, but visual objects in space.
Experimental Brain Research 06/2008; 187(3):439-46. · 2.39 Impact Factor