Impaired spatial working memory: one component of the visual neglect syndrome?
Malhotra P., Mannan S., Driver J., Husain M.
Both impaired spatial working memory (SWM) and unilateral neglect may follow damage to the right parietal lobe. We propose that impaired SWM can exacerbate visual neglect, due to failures in remembering locations that have already been searched. When combined with an attentional bias to the ipsilesional right side, such a SWM impairment should induce recursive search of ipsilesional locations. Here we studied a left neglect patient with a right temporoparietal haemorrhage. On a nonlateralised, purely vertical SWM task, he was impaired in retaining spatial locations. In a visual search task, his eye position was monitored while his spatial memory was probed. He recursively searched through right stimuli, re-fixating previously inspected items, and critically treated them as if they were new discoveries, consistent with the SWM deficit. When his recovery was tracked over several months, his SWM deficit and left neglect showed concurrent improvements. We argue that impaired SWM may be one important component of the visual neglect syndrome.