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Spatial Neglect: Clinical and Neuroscience Review

A Wealth of Information on the Poverty of Spatial Attention


  • John C. Adair,

    1. Department of Neurology, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Neurology Service, New Mexico Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
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  • Anna M. Barrett

    1. Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey—New Jersey Medical School, Kessler Medical Rehabilitation and Research Institute, West Orange, New Jersey, USA
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Address for correspondence: Dr. John Adair, Neurology Service (127), New Mexico VA Health Care System, 1501 San Pedro Dr., SE, Albuquerque, NM 87108-5153. Voice: 505-265-1711; fax: 505-256-2870.


Hemispatial neglect (HSN) is a frequent, conspicuous neurobehavioral accompaniment of brain injury. Patients with HSN share several superficial similarities, leading earlier clinical neuroscientists to view neglect as a unitary condition associated with brain structures that mediate relatively discrete spatial cognitive mechanisms. Over the last two decades, research largely deconstructed the neglect syndrome, revealing a remarkable heterogeneity of behaviors and providing insight into multiple component processes, both spatial and nonspatial, that contribute to hemispatial neglect. This review surveys visual HSN, presenting first the means for detection and diagnosis in its manifold variations. We summarize cognitive operations relevant to spatial attention and evidence for their role in neglect behaviors and then briefly consider neural systems that may subserve the component processes. Finally, we propose several methods for rehabilitating HSN, including the challenges facing remediation of such a heterogeneous cognitive disorder.