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Distortion of size perception in visuospatial neglect

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Background: A number of studies have shown that most patients with symptoms of unilateral (left-sided) visuospatial neglect make consistently rightward errors when attempting to bisect a horizontal line at its midpoint. One possible interpretation of this impairment is that such patients misperceive the left half of the line: that is, that they underestimate its extent relative to the right half. Results We have carried out direct tests for such a perceptual distortion in three neglect patients by asking them to make matching judgements on pairs of horizontal rectangles, vertical rectangles or nonsense shapes, of varying relative size, presented on a computer screen. We report here that all of the patients tested showed a significant and substantial relative underestimation of the horizontal extent or area of stimuli presented on the left side of their egocentric space. There was no such misperception of vertical extent. Conclusion It is suggested that size perception may be partially determined by a representational system that is anatomically centred in the parieto-temporal region of the brain. The results are interpreted in terms of damage to this system in neglect patients.

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