Reading direction and spatial neglect

Academic Article


  • Many American and European investigators have reported that hemispatial neglect is more frequent and more severe after right than left hemisphere lesions. This hemispheric asymmetry may be due to biological asymmetries, learned behavior, or both. Readers of European languages, unlike readers of Semitic languages, scan from left to right. Learned rightward scanning may increase the unilateral neglect associated with right hemisphere lesions and reduce the severity of neglect associated with left hemisphere lesions. To learn if hemispheric asymmetries of neglect are influenced by learned scanning behavior, we used line bisection and cancellation tasks to study patients with unilateral stroke who read only a Semitic or European language before the age of fifteen. We found that independent of reading direction, unilateral neglect was more commonly associated with right than left hemisphere lesions. After right hemisphere damage right to left readers bisected lines closer to center than left to right readers, but on the cancellation test readers of European languages did not perform differently than readers of Semitic languages. These findings suggest that whereas learned scan direction may influence the severity of neglect when measured by line bisection, these learned directional scans cannot fully account for the observed hemisphere asymmetries of neglect. They also suggest that the line bisection test is more influenced by the direction of scanning than is the cancellation test.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • Cortex  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Speedie LJ; Wertman E; Verfaellie M; Butter C; Silberman N; Liechtenstein M; Heilman KM
  • Start Page

  • 59
  • End Page

  • 67
  • Volume

  • 38
  • Issue

  • 1