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Spatial attention and neglect: parietal, frontal and cingulate contributions to the mental representation and attentional targeting of salient extrapersonal events.

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  • Research Article


The syndrome of contralesional neglect reflects a lateralized disruption of spatial attention. In the human, the left hemisphere shifts attention predominantly in the contralateral hemispace and in a contraversive direction whereas the right hemisphere distributes attention more evenly, in both hemispaces and both directions. As a consequence of this asymmetry, severe contralesional neglect occurs almost exclusively after right hemisphere lesions. Patients with left neglect experience a loss of salience in the mental representation and conscious perception of the left side and display a reluctance to direct orientating and exploratory behaviours to the left. Neglect is distributed according to egocentric, allocentric, world-centred, and object-centred frames of reference. Neglected events can continue to exert an implicit influence on behaviour, indicating that the attentional filtering occurs at the level of an internalized representation rather than at the level of peripheral sensory input. The unilateral neglect syndrome is caused by a dysfunction of a large-scale neurocognitive network, the cortical epicentres of which are located in posterior parietal cortex, the frontal eye fields, and the cingulate gyrus. This network coordinates all aspects of spatial attention, regardless of the modality of input or output. It helps to compile a mental representation of extrapersonal events in terms of their motivational salience, and to generate 'kinetic strategies' so that the attentional focus can shift from one target to another.

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