Spatial neglect increases hospital morbidity and costs in around 50% of the 795,000 people per year in the USA who survive stroke, and an urgent need exists to reduce the care burden of this condition. However, effective acute treatment for neglect has been elusive. In this article, we review 48 studies of a treatment of intense neuroscience interest: prism adaptation training. Due to its effects on spatial motor 'aiming', prism adaptation training may act to reduce neglect-related disability. However, research failed, first, to suggest methods to identify the 50-75% of patients who respond to treatment; second, to measure short-term and long-term outcomes in both mechanism-specific and functionally valid ways; third, to confirm treatment utility during the critical first 8 weeks poststroke; and last, to base treatment protocols on systematic dose-response data. Thus, considerable investment in prism adaptation research has not yet touched the fundamentals needed for clinical implementation. We suggest improved standards and better spatial motor models for further research, so as to clarify when, how and for whom prism adaptation should be applied.