Representation and disconnection in imaginal neglect

Paolo Bartolomeo, G Rode, F Cotton, P Revol, S Jacquin Courtois, Y Rossetti

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37 Citations (Scopus)


Patients with neglect failure to detect, orient, or respond to stimuli from a spatially confined region, usually on their left side. Often, the presence of perceptual input increases left omissions, while sensory deprivation decreases them, possibly by removing attention-catching right-sided stimuli (Bartolomeo, 2007). However, such an influence of visual deprivation on representational neglect was not observed in patients while they were imagining a map of France (Rode et al., 2007). Therefore, these patients with imaginal neglect either failed to generate the left side of mental images (Bisiach & Luzzatti, 1978), or suffered from a co-occurrence of deficits in automatic (bottom-up) and voluntary (top-down) orienting of attention. However, in Rode et al.'s experiment visual input was not directly relevant to the task; moreover, distraction from visual input might primarily manifest itself when representation guides somatomotor actions, beyond those involved in the generation and mental exploration of an internal map (Thomas, 1999). To explore these possibilities, we asked a patient with right hemisphere damage, R.D., to explore visual and imagined versions of a map of France in three conditions: (1) 'imagine the map in your mind' (imaginal); (2) 'describe a real map' (visual); and (3) 'list the names of French towns' (propositional). For the imaginal and visual conditions, verbal and manual pointing responses were collected; the task was also given before and after mental rotation of the map by 180 degrees . R.D. mentioned more towns on the right side of the map in the imaginal and visual conditions, but showed no representational deficit in the propositional condition. The rightward inner exploration bias in the imaginal and visual conditions was similar in magnitude and was not influenced by mental rotation or response type (verbal responses or manual pointing to locations on a map), thus suggesting that the representational deficit was robust and independent of perceptual input in R.D. Structural and diffusion MRI demonstrated damage to several white matter tracts in the right hemisphere and to the splenium of corpus callosum. A second right-brain damaged patient (P.P.), who showed signs of visual but not imaginal neglect, had damage to the same intra-hemispheric tracts, but the callosal connections were spared. Imaginal neglect in R.D. may result from fronto-parietal dysfunction impairing orientation towards left-sided items and posterior callosal disconnection preventing the symmetrical processing of spatial information from long-term memory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2903-2911
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Aged
  • Anisotropy
  • Brain
  • Brain Mapping
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Imagination
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Perceptual Disorders
  • Photic Stimulation

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