Patients with hemispatial neglect fail to respond to stimuli on one side of space. We assessed to what extent the complexity and number of visual stimuli on both sides determine the severity of neglect. Patients with neglect were required to find specified targets in a cluttered visual field. Two sets of stimuli were used. One set produced effortless and parallel search performance in normal controls; the other set was more complex and produced serial search performance in normal controls. Both sets of stimuli resulted in a serial performance pattern in the patients. Their baseline search performance on both sides was similar when all stimulus items were restricted to one side. A pronounced difference between the two sides was evident when stimuli appeared on both sides. Search for targets on the intact side of space was unaffected by distractors on the neglected side, whereas search for targets on the neglected side was slowed disproportionately by distractors on the intact side. The slowing on the neglected side was more severe during the more demanding search task and when more items were present on the intact side. The results indicate that neglect is associated with an inability to move attention from objects on the intact side to items on the neglected side.

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