When brain damage "improves" perception: neglect patients can localize motion-shifted probes better than controls

J Neurophysiol. 2015 Dec;114(6):3351-8. doi: 10.1152/jn.00757.2015. Epub 2015 Oct 28.


When we look at bars flashed against a moving background, we see them displaced in the direction of the upcoming motion (flash-grab illusion). It is still debated whether these motion-induced position shifts are low-level, reflexive consequences of stimulus motion or high-level compensation engaged only when the stimulus is tracked with attention. To investigate whether attention is a causal factor for this striking illusory position shift, we evaluated the flash-grab illusion in six patients with damaged attentional networks in the right hemisphere and signs of left visual neglect and six age-matched controls. With stimuli in the top, right, and bottom visual fields, neglect patients experienced the same amount of illusion as controls. However, patients showed no significant shift when the test was presented in their left hemifield, despite having equally precise judgments. Thus, paradoxically, neglect patients perceived the position of the flash more veridically in their neglected hemifield. These results suggest that impaired attentional processes can reduce the interaction between a moving background and a superimposed stationary flash, and indicate that attention is a critical factor in generating the illusory motion-induced shifts of location.

Keywords: attention; left visual neglect; motion-induced position shift.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Attention
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Illusions*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motion
  • Motion Perception*
  • Space Perception*
  • Visual Fields