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Neuropsychologia. 2016 Nov;92:79-89. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2016.02.029. Epub 2016 Mar 9.

Visual attention in posterior stroke and relations to alexia.

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Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Electronic address:
Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark; The Communication Centre, Ballerup, Capital Region, Denmark.
Department of Neurology, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Department of Diagnostics, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.


Impaired visual attention is common following strokes in the territory of the middle cerebral artery, particularly in the right hemisphere, while attentional effects of more posterior lesions are less clear. Commonly, such deficits are investigated in relation to specific syndromes like visual agnosia or pure alexia. The aim of this study was to characterize visual processing speed and apprehension span following posterior cerebral artery (PCA) stroke. In addition, the relationship between these attentional parameters and single word reading is investigated, as previous studies have suggested that reduced visual speed and span may explain pure alexia. Eight patients with unilateral PCA strokes (four left hemisphere, four right hemisphere) were selected on the basis of lesion location, rather than the presence of any visual symptoms. Visual attention was characterized by a whole report paradigm allowing for hemifield-specific measurements of processing speed and apprehension span. All patients showed reductions in visual span contralateral to the lesion site, and four patients showed bilateral reductions in visual span despite unilateral lesions (2L; 2R). Six patients showed selective deficits in visual span, though processing speed was unaffected in the same field (ipsi- or contralesionally). Only patients with right hemifield reductions in visual span were impaired in reading, and this could follow either right or left lateralized stroke and was irrespective of visual field impairments. In conclusion, visual span may be affected bilaterally by unilateral PCA-lesions. Reductions in visual span may also be confined to one hemifield, and may be affected in spite of preserved visual processing speed. Furthermore, reduced span in the right visual field seems to be related to reading impairment in this group, regardless of lesion lateralization.


Posterior stroke; Reading dysfunction; Theory of visual attention; Visual attention

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