Deficits of visual attention and saccadic eye movements after lesions of parietooccipital cortex in monkeys

J Neurophysiol. 1989 Jan;61(1):74-90. doi: 10.1152/jn.1989.61.1.74.


1. Visual attention is often profoundly disturbed in humans after damage to the cortex of the posterior parietal lobe, particularly of the minor hemisphere, with some patients being totally unaware of visual stimuli in the hemifield of extrapersonal space contralateral to the cortical damage. This severe form of visual inattention is usually called contralateral neglect and has occasionally been reported following posterior parietal lesions in monkeys. However, in monkeys, only qualitative observations have been published and those reports are not in agreement concerning the severity of the deficit. The present experiments were designed to measure quantitatively the amount of disruption of selective visual attention which is produced by lesions of posterior parietal and parietooccipital cortical lesions in monkeys. 2. Five monkeys were trained to visually fixate and follow with their gaze a small visual stimulus as it suddenly moved varying distances (8, 16, or 24 degrees) from the midline into the left or right visual hemifields. Two animals then received a unilateral cortical lesion limited to the inferior parietal lobule (IPL). Three animals received unilateral lesions which included both the inferior parietal lobule and a portion of adjacent dorsal prestriate cortex (IPL-PS). 3. Visual inattention is commonly divided into two levels of severity. The more severe form, contralateral neglect, is the complete absence of behavioral response to a stimulus in the visual field contralateral to hemisphere damage. The less severe deficit, usually called visual extinction, is a tendency to ignore the contralateral of two visual stimuli when they appear simultaneously and symmetrically placed with respect to the center of the subject's surroundings. The five monkeys in this study were tested on a stimulus paradigm which simultaneously measured the severity of visual neglect and also the amount and duration of visual extinction which were produced by the cortical lesions. 4. All monkeys displayed contralateral visual extinction after unilateral posterior parietal or parietooccipital lesions. Three of the five monkeys showed a reversal of the visual extinction after a second, symmetrical lesion was placed in the opposite hemisphere. No monkey showed evidence of full-blown contralateral neglect after lesions limited to the parietooccipital cortex, either in the formal testing situation or during informal neurological examinations. The severity of the observed inattention did not appear to be related to the size of the cortical lesions.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Diseases / etiology
  • Brain Diseases / physiopathology
  • Eye Movements*
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Functional Laterality
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Occipital Lobe / pathology
  • Occipital Lobe / physiology*
  • Parietal Lobe / pathology
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Saccades*
  • Vision Disorders / etiology
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*