Space-based but not object-based inhibition of return is impaired in Parkinson's disease

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Impairments in certain aspects of attention have frequently been reported in Parkinson's disease (PD), including reduced inhibition of return (IOR). Recent evidence suggests that IOR can occur when attention is directed at objects or locations, but previous investigations of IOR in PD have not systematically compared these two frames of reference. The present study compared the performance of 18 nondemented patients with PD and 18 normal controls on an IOR task with two conditions. In the “object-present” condition, objects surrounded the cues and targets so that attention was cued to both a spatial location and to a specific object. In the “object-absent” condition, surrounding objects were not presented so that attention was cued only to a spatial location. When participants had to rely on space-based cues, PD patients demonstrated reduced IOR compared to controls. In contrast, when objects were present in the display and participants could use object-based cues, PD patients exhibited normal IOR. These results suggest that PD patients are impaired in inhibitory aspects of space-based attention, but are able to overcome this impairment when their attention can be directed at object-based frames of reference. This dissociation supports the view that space-based and object-based components of attention involve distinct neurocognitive processes.

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