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Spatial working memory deficits represent a core challenge for rehabilitating neglect

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neglect, spatial working memory, rehabilitation, parietal lobe, prism adaptation

Abstract (summary)

Left neglect following right hemisphere injury is a debilitating disorder that has proven extremely difficult to rehabilitate. Traditional models of neglect have focused on impaired spatial attention as the core deficit and as such, most rehabilitation methods have tried to improve attentional processes. However, many of these techniques (e.g., visual scanning training, caloric stimulation, neck muscle vibration) produce only short-lived effects, or are too uncomfortable to use as a routine treatment. More recently, many investigators have begun examining the beneficial effects of prism adaptation for the treatment of neglect. Although prism adaptation has been shown to have some beneficial effects on both overt and covert spatial attention, it does not reliably alter many of the perceptual biases evident in neglect. One of the challenges of neglect rehabilitation may lie in the heterogeneous nature of the deficits. Most notably, a number of researchers have shown that neglect patients present with severe deficits in spatial working memory (SWM) in addition to their attentional impairments. Given that SWM can be seen as a foundational cognitive mechanism, critical for a wide range of other functions, any deficit in SWM memory will undoubtedly have severe consequences. In the current review we examine the evidence for SWM deficits in neglect and propose that it constitutes a core component of the syndrome. We present preliminary data which suggest that at least one current rehabilitation method (prism adaptation) has no effect on SWM deficits in neglect. Finally, we end by reviewing recent work that examines the effectiveness of SWM training and how SWM training may prove to be a useful avenue for future rehabilitative efforts in patients with neglect.

Publication Information

Striemer, C.L., Ferber, S. & Danckert, J. (2013). Spatial working memory deficits represent a core challenge for rehabilitating neglect. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7(334). doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00334


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