Performing allocentric visuospatial judgments with induced distortion of the egocentric reference frame: an fMRI study with clinical implications

Neuroimage. 2003 Nov;20(3):1505-17. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2003.07.006.


The temporary improvement of visuospatial neglect during galvanic vestibular stimulation (Scand. J. Rehabil. Med. 31 (1999)117) may result from correction of the spatial reference frame distorted by the responsible lesion. Prior to an investigation of the neural basis of this effect in neurological patients, exploration of the neural mechanisms underlying such procedures in normals is required to provide insight into the physiological basis thereof. Despite their clinical impact, the neural mechanisms underlying the interaction of galvanic (and other) vestibular manipulations with visuospatial processing (and indeed the neural bases of how spatial reference frames are computed in man) remain to be clarified. We accordingly used fMRI in normal volunteers to investigate the effect of galvanically induced interference with the egocentric spatial reference frame on the neural processes underlying allocentric visuospatial (line bisection) judgments. A significant specific interaction of galvanic vestibular stimulation with the neural mechanisms underlying allocentric visuospatial judgments was observed in right posterior parietal and ventral premotor cortex only. Activation of these areas previously found to be damaged in visuospatial neglect suggests that these effects reflect the increased processing demands when compensating for the distorted egocentric spatial reference frame while maintaining accurate performance during the allocentric spatial task. These results thus implicate right posterior parietal and right ventral premotor cortex in the computation of spatial reference frames. Furthermore, our data imply a specific physiological basis for the temporary improvement of visuospatial neglect in patients with right hemisphere lesions during galvanic vestibular stimulation and may thus impact upon the rehabilitation of neglect: understanding the interaction of galvanic vestibular stimulation with allocentric visuospatial judgments in healthy volunteers may lead to the more effective deployment of such techniques in neurological patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cerebellum / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Perceptual Disorders / physiopathology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*


  • Oxygen