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Drawing perseveration in neglect: Effects of target density


Lorenzo Pia, Psychology Department & Neuroscience Institute of Turin (NIT), Via Po 14, Turin 10123, Italy (e-mail:


In cancellation tasks, patients with unilateral spatial neglect typically fail to mark targets within the side of the sheet contralateral to the side of the lesion (contralesional). Moreover, they can show a perseverative behaviour, which consists in repeatedly cancelling stimuli, mainly in the side of the display ipsilateral to the side of the lesion (ipsilesional). We investigated in 13 right-brain-damaged patients with left spatial neglect and perseverative behaviour whether and how different densities of horizontal targets modulated omission and perseverative errors. We found that the density of targets modulated the patients’ distribution of neglect (area of omission), but not its extent, as indexed by the percentage of omissions. Specifically, the area of omissions tightened when target density increased leftwards. On the other hand, target density did not affect the distribution of perseverative behaviour (area of perseveration), as well as its extent, as indexed by the percentage of perseverations. Correlation analyses showed that both the extent and the distribution of omissions were positively correlated to clinical measures of spatial neglect. Conversely, perseverations did not show such a correlation. These findings support the view that two different pathological mechanisms might be involved in left spatial neglect and in ipsilesional perseverative behaviour.