Mapping the functional neuroanatomy of spatial neglect and human parietal lobe functions: progress and challenges

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Spatial neglect is generally defined by various deficits in processing information from one (e.g., left) side of space contralateral to focal (e.g., right) hemisphere damage. Although classically associated with parietal lobe functions, there is now compelling evidence that neglect can follow lesions in many different cortical and subcortical sites, suggesting a dysfunction in distributed brain networks. In addition, neglect is likely to result from a combination of distinct deficits that co-occur due to concomitant damage affecting juxtaposed brain areas and their connections, but the exact nature of core deficits and their neural substrates still remains unclear. The present review describes recent progress in identifying functional components of the neglect syndrome and relating them to distinct subregions of parietal cortex. A comprehensive understanding of spatial neglect will require a more precise definition of cognitive processes implicated in different behavioral manifestations, as well as meticulous mapping of these processes onto specific brain circuits, while taking into account functional changes in activity that may arise in structurally intact areas subsequent to damage in distant portions of the relevant networks.

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