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date: 18 November 2017

Abstract and Keywords

Left unilateral spatial neglect is the most frequent and disabling neuropsychological syndrome caused by lesions to the right hemisphere. Over 50% of right-brain-damaged patients show neglect, while right neglect after left-hemispheric damage is less frequent. Neglect patients are unable to orient towards the side contralateral to the lesion, to detect and report sensory events in that portion of space, as well as to explore it by motor action. Neglect is a multicomponent disorder, which may involve the contralesional side of the body or of extra-personal physical or imagined space, different sensory modalities, specific domains (e.g. ‘neglect dyslexia’), and worsen sensorimotor deficits. Neglect is due to higher-order unilateral deficits of spatial attention and representation, so that patients are not aware of contralesional events, which, however, undergo a substantial amount of unconscious processing up to the semantic level. Cross-modal sensory integration is also largely preserved. Neglect is primarily a spatially specific disorder of perceptual consciousness. The responsible lesions involve a network including the fronto-temporo-parietal cortex (particularly the posterior-inferior parietal lobe, at the temporo-parietal junction), their white matter connections, and some subcortical grey nuclei (thalamus, basal ganglia). Damage to primary sensory and motor regions is not associated to neglect. A variety of physiological lateralized and asymmetrical sensory stimulations (vestibular, optokinetic, prism adaptation, motor activation), and transcranial electrical and magnetic stimulations, may temporarily improve or worsen neglect. Different procedures have been successfully developed to rehabilitate neglect, using both ‘top down’ (training the voluntary orientation of attention) and ‘bottom up’ (the above-mentioned stimulations) approaches.

Keywords: unilateral spatial neglect, right cerebral hemisphere, spatial attention, spatial representation, hemispheric asymmetry, sensorimotor deficits, sensory stimulation, transcranial electrical and magnetic stimulation

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