Patient assessment based on a theory of visual attention (TVA): subtle deficits after a right frontal-subcortical lesion

Neuropsychologia. 2003;41(9):1171-88. doi: 10.1016/s0028-3932(03)00018-6.


We report on a patient who complained of reduced awareness in the left visual field, but showed no visual neglect or extinction in clinical testing. By MR scanning, the brain damage was localized to the right basal ganglia, also involving structures in right frontal cortex. Using psychophysical testing and mathematical modeling based on Bundesen's theory of visual attention [TVA; Psychol. Rev. 97 (1990) 523], the patient's subjective experience of attentional disturbance was confirmed, and the deficit was specified into several components. At very short exposure durations, two effects were shown. The detection threshold was elevated, particularly in the left visual field, and stimuli in this side were given less attentional weight. In addition, the capacity of visual short-term memory (VSTM) was markedly reduced in both visual fields. The robustness of the test results was evaluated by bootstrap analysis. The study demonstrates the sensitivity and specificity gained by combining psychophysical testing with TVA modeling in the analysis of visual attention disorders. Extending the results of a pioneer study of parietal neglect patients by Duncan et al. [J. Exp. Psychol.: Gen. 128 (1999) 450], this study demonstrates the strength of the method in a single case, with a lesion outside parietal cortex, and only minor clinical symptoms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Brain Diseases / diagnosis
  • Brain Diseases / physiopathology
  • Brain Diseases / psychology*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Visual Fields*