Prominent deficits in spatial attention evident in patients with hemispatial neglect are often accompanied by equally prominent deficits in non-spatial attention (e.g., poor sustained and selective attention, pronounced vigilance decrement). A number of studies now show that deficits in non-spatial attention influence spatial attention. Treatment strategies focused on improving vigilance or sustained attention may effectively remediate neglect. For example, a recent study employing Tonic and Phasic Alertness Training (TAPAT), a task that requires monitoring a constant stream of hundreds of novel scenes, demonstrated group-level (n=12) improvements after training compared to a test-retest control group or active treatment control condition on measures of visual search, midpoint estimation and working memory (DeGutis and Van Vleet, 2010). To determine whether the modality of treatment or stimulus novelty are key factors to improving hemispatial neglect, we designed a similar continuous performance training task in which eight patients with chronic and moderate to severe neglect were challenged to rapidly and continuously discriminate a limited set of centrally presented auditory tones once a day for 9 days (36-min/day). All patients demonstrated significant improvement in several, untrained measures of spatial and non-spatial visual attention, and as a group failed to demonstrate a lateralized attention deficit 24-h post-training compared to a control group of chronic neglect patients who simply waited during the training period. The results indicate that TAPAT-related improvements in hemispatial neglect are likely due to improvements in the intrinsic regulation of supramodal, non-spatial attentional resources.
Published by Elsevier Ltd.