Abstract

Recent studies indicate that auditory tone presentation and auditory alerting can temporarily ameliorate visuospatial attention deficits in patients with unilateral neglect [Frassinetti, F., Pavani, F., & Ladavas, E. Acoustical vision of neglected stimuli: Interaction among spatially converging audiovisual inputs in neglect patients. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 14, 62–69, 2002; Robertson, I. H., Mattingley, J. B., Rorden, C., & Driver, J. Phasic alerting of neglect patients overcomes their spatial deficit in visual awareness. Nature, 395, 169–172, 1998]. The current study investigated proposed mechanisms of cross-modal interaction to determine conditions in which auditory stimulation affects spatial and nonspatially lateralized attention deficits in a patient with hemispatial neglect. In Experiment 1, a target was presented among related distracters (conjunction search) while a tone was presented either bilaterally or in a congruent or incongruent spatial location with respect to the visual target. Whereas the results suggest a benefit of both general alerting and cross-modal spatial integration on visual search efficiency, the most significant improvement occurred when the target and tone were both presented in contralesional space. In Experiment 2, the effect of auditory alerting on selective attention was examined in a rapid serial visual search procedure with visual targets embedded in a stream of distracters presented at central fixation. When two targets were presented without an alerting tone, the patient missed the second target for up to 1000 msec after the first target appeared (a finding known as the “attentional blink” [AB] and, on average, about 400–500 msec in normals). An alerting tone presented at a fixed temporal location significantly reduced the AB in a tone-duration-dependent manner. Experiment 3 examined the effect of cross-modal space on selective attention in an AB paradigm in which T2 occurred randomly to the left or right of T1 with a spatially congruent or incongruent tone. Discrimination of T2 in contralesional space significantly improved when the tone was presented in the same location, and was impaired when the tone was presented on the ipsilesional side. The findings are discussed as they relate to cross-modal interactions and their influence on spatial and nonspatially lateralized attention deficits in neglect.

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