Beware and be aware: Capture of spatial attention by fear-related stimuli in neglect


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Abstract

Stimuli with threat significance may be privileged in summoning attention, allowing fast detection even outside the field of attention. We studied patients with unilateral neglect and visual extinction, who usually remain unaware of contralesional stimuli presented together with concurrent ipsilesional stimuli, to learn whether emotional stimuli might differentially be affected by contralesional extinction. Pictures of spiders or flowers with similar features were presented in right, left, or both fields. On bilateral trials, the patients detected emotional stimuli (spiders) on the left side much more often than neutral pictures (flowers). While mechanisms of spatial attention are impaired after parietal damage in neglect patients, intact visual pathways to the ventral temporal lobe and amygdala might still mediate distinct mechanisms of emotional attention.

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