Disorders of visual attention and the posterior parietal cortex

Cortex. 2006 Jul;42(5):766-73. doi: 10.1016/s0010-9452(08)70415-5.


Traditionally, both the monkey and human posterior parietal cortex (PPC) have been considered to have a privileged role in spatial perception or action. Lesions to this region of the human brain, particularly of the right hemisphere, undoubtedly lead to spatially lateralised deficits such as visual extinction or neglect. However, although studies in monkeys have revealed much about the spatial functions of the parietal lobe, the monkey PPC may not be a good model system with which to understand fully the disorders of attention that follow damage to the human parietal cortex. Several lines of evidence, from functional imaging as well as investigations of patients with parietal damage, demonstrate that parts of the human inferior parietal lobe (IPL) have non-spatial functions. Here, we argue that it is important to distinguish spatially lateralised from spatial deficits. Both spatial and non-spatial impairments might, in principle, contribute to a spatially lateralised behavioural syndrome such as neglect. In this review, we discuss the evidence for such a proposal and suggest that a better understanding of human parietal syndromes may emerge from considering both the spatial and non-spatial functions of this region.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Haplorhini
  • Humans
  • Parietal Lobe / pathology
  • Parietal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Perceptual Disorders / physiopathology
  • Perceptual Disorders / psychology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Visual Perception / physiology*