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  • Crossmodal visual-tactile extinction: Modulation by posture implicates biased competition in proprioceptively reconstructed space.

    5 February 2018

    Extinction is a common consequence of unilateral brain injury: contralesional events can be perceived in isolation, yet are missed when presented concurrently with competing events on the ipsilesional side. This can arise crossmodally, where a contralateral touch is extinguished by an ipsilateral visual event. Recent studies showed that repositioning the hands in visible space, or making visual events more distant, can modulate such crossmodal extinction. Here, in a detailed single-case study, we implemented a novel spatial manipulation when assessing crossmodal extinction. This was designed not only to hold somatosensory inputs and hand/arm-posture constant, but also to hold (retinotopic) visual inputs constant, yet while still changing the spatial relationship of tactile and visual events in the external world. Our right hemisphere patient extinguished left-hand touches due to visual stimulation of the right visual field (RVF) when tested in the usual default posture with eyes/head directed straight ahead. But when her eyes/head were turned to the far left (and any visual events shifted along with this), such that the identical RVF retinal stimulation now fell at the same external location as the left-hand touch, crossmodal extinction was eliminated. Since only proprioceptive postural cues could signal this changed spatial relationship for the critical condition, our results show for the first time that such postural cues alone are sufficient to modulate crossmodal extinction. Identical somatosensory and retinal inputs can lead to severe crossmodal extinction, or none, depending on current posture.

  • Attention, competition, and the parietal lobes: insights from Balint's syndrome.

    21 February 2018

    Simultanagnosia (resulting from occipito-parietal damage) is a profound visual deficit, which impairs the ability to perceive multiple items in a visual display, while preserving the ability to recognise single objects. Here we demonstrate in a patient presenting with Balint's syndrome that this deficit may result from an extreme form of competition between objects which makes it difficult for attention to be disengaged from an object once it has been selected.

  • White matter microstructure and cognitive function.

    20 March 2018

    In recent years, diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DW-MRI) has been increasingly used to explore the relationship between white matter structure and cognitive function. This technique uses the passive diffusion of water molecules to infer properties of the surrounding tissue. DW-MRI has been extensively employed to investigate how individual differences in behavior are related to variability in white matter microstructure on a range of different cognitive tasks and also to examine the effect experiential learning might have on brain structural connectivity. Using diffusion tensor tractography, large white matter pathways have been traced in vivo and used to explore patterns of white matter projections between different brain regions. Recent findings suggest that diffusion-weighted imaging might even be used to measure functional differences in water diffusion during task performance. This review describes some research highlights in diffusion-weighted imaging and how this technique can be employed to further our understanding of cognitive function.

  • Acquired visual field defects rehabilitation: critical review and perspectives.

    1 March 2018

    Visual field deficit (VFD) is one of the most commonly observed symptoms following brain injury. Persistent VFD and defective exploratory oculomotor scanning patterns often cause severe impairment in daily activities, particularly as regards visual exploration and reading. Homonymous hemianopia is consequently a powerful negative predictor of patient outcome. In spite of these quantitative and qualitative factors, there currently exists no consensus on rehabilitative therapy and treatment. Different approaches have nevertheless been developed, all of them having one therapeutic principle in common; repeated practice of a specific visual task, with the hope/expectation that improved performance will extend to a wide range of ecologically useful visual functions. The four main available methods aim at replacing part of the intact visual field with part of the damaged visual field (optical therapy using prisms), at partially restoring the lost visual field region (restorative therapies), at stimulating detection capacities in the blind field (stimulation or blindsight) or at substituting for the lost region by reorganizing the control of visual information processing and eye movements (compensatory therapies). This review explores the key data relative to these different approaches in terms of behavioral or imagery results. It also aims at critically analyzing the advantages and limits of each one. The importance of strict assessment in terms of deficiencies or disabilities is underlined. Finally, upon consideration of these data taken as a whole, it is suggested that efficient treatment would probably have to associate general components and more specific elements, according to what may be done with regard to other aspects of cognitive rehabilitation.

  • Cathodal transcranial direct current stimulation over posterior parietal cortex enhances distinct aspects of visual working memory.

    1 March 2018

    In this study, we investigated the effects of tDCS over the posterior parietal cortex (PPC) during a visual working memory (WM) task, which probes different sources of response error underlying the precision of WM recall. In two separate experiments, we demonstrated that tDCS enhanced WM precision when applied bilaterally over the PPC, independent of electrode configuration. In a third experiment, we demonstrated with unilateral electrode configuration over the right PPC, that only cathodal tDCS enhanced WM precision and only when baseline performance was low. Looking at the effects on underlying sources of error, we found that cathodal stimulation enhanced the probability of correct target response across all participants by reducing feature-misbinding. Only for low-baseline performers, cathodal stimulation also reduced variability of recall. We conclude that cathodal- but not anodal tDCS can improve WM precision by preventing feature-misbinding and hereby enhancing attentional selection. For low-baseline performers, cathodal tDCS also protects the memory trace. Furthermore, stimulation over bilateral PPC is more potent than unilateral cathodal tDCS in enhancing general WM precision.

  • Looking at human eyes affects contralesional stimulus processing after right hemispheric stroke.

    28 January 2018

    Human eyes are a powerful social cue that may automatically attract the attention of an observer. Here we tested whether looking toward open human eyes, as often arises in standard clinical "confrontation" tests, may affect contralesional errors in a group of right brain-damaged patients showing visual extinction. Patients were requested to discriminate peripheral shape-targets presented on the left, right, or bilaterally. On each trial they also saw a central task-irrelevant stimulus, comprising an image of the eye sector of a human face, with those seen eyes open or closed. The conditions with central eye stimuli open (vs closed) induced more errors for contralesional peripheral targets, particularly for bilateral trials. These results suggest that seeing open eyes in central vision may attract attentional resources there, reducing attention to the periphery, particularly for the affected contralesional side. The seen gaze of the examiner may thus need to be considered during confrontation testing and may contribute to the effectiveness of that clinical procedure.