Spatial neglect and attention networks

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2011:34:569-99. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-061010-113731.


Unilateral spatial neglect is a common neurological syndrome following predominantly right hemisphere injuries and is characterized by both spatial and non-spatial deficits. Core spatial deficits involve mechanisms for saliency coding, spatial attention, and short-term memory and occur in conjunction with nonspatial deficits that involve reorienting, target detection, and arousal/vigilance. We argue that neglect is better explained by the dysfunction of distributed cortical networks for the control of attention than by structural damage of specific brain regions. Ventral lesions in right parietal, temporal, and frontal cortex that cause neglect directly impair nonspatial functions partly mediated by a ventral frontoparietal attention network. Structural damage in ventral cortex also induces physiological abnormalities of task-evoked activity and functional connectivity in a dorsal frontoparietal network that controls spatial attention. The anatomy and right hemisphere dominance of neglect follow from the anatomy and laterality of the ventral regions that interact with the dorsal attention network.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / pathology
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Perceptual Disorders / pathology*
  • Perceptual Disorders / physiopathology*