Parietal neglect and visual awareness

Nat Neurosci. 1998 May;1(1):17-22. doi: 10.1038/217.


The last decade has seen a resurgence of interest in the neural correlates of conscious vision, with most discussion focused on the 'blindsight' that can follow damage to primary visual cortex, in the occipital lobe. We suggest that new insights into the neural basis of visual awareness may be gleaned from a different neuropsychological phenomenon, namely visual 'neglect' after injury to regions in the parietal lobe. Neglect provides several revealing contrasts with occipital blindsight. Here we summarise four key findings. First, unlike the deficits caused by damage to primary visual cortex, the loss of awareness in parietal neglect is characteristically not strictly retinotopic. Second, visual segmentation processes are preserved in neglect, and can influence what will reach the patient's awareness. Third, extensive unconscious processing takes place for those stimuli on the neglected side which escape awareness, including some degree of object identification. Finally, parietal damage affects initial stages of motor planning as well as perception. These findings are consistent with recent data on single-cell activity in the monkey brain. They also suggest why areas in the inferior parietal lobe may play a prominent role in visual awareness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Awareness / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*