T. Habekost, E. Rostrup
Dec 31, 2007
Recently there has been a growing interest in visual short-term memory (VSTM) including the neural basis of the function. Processing speed, another main aspect of visual attention capacity, has received less investigation. For both cognitive functions human lesion studies are sparse. We used a whole report experiment for estimation of these two parameters in 22 patients with right side stroke. Psychophysical performance was analyzed using Bundesen's [Bundesen, C. (1990). A theory of visual attention. Psychological Review, 97, 523-547] Theory of Visual Attention (TVA) and compared statistically to lesion location and size measured by MRI. Visual processing speed was impaired in the contralesional hemifield for most patients, but typically preserved ipsilesionally, even after large cortico-subcortical lesions. When bilateral deficits in processing speed occurred, they were related to damage in the right middle frontal gyrus or leukoaraiosis. The storage capacity of VSTM was also normal for most patients, but deficits were found after severe leukoaraiosis or large strokes extending deep into white matter. Thus, the study demonstrated the importance of white-matter connectivity for both VSTM capacity and ipsilesional processing speed. The study also showed that lesions in a large region of the right hemisphere, including the putamen, insula, and inferior frontal cortex, do not lead to general deficits in the capacity of visual attention.