Objectives - Neglect has been described in patients with lesions of the parietal cortex and has been interpreted as a disorder of the allocation of spatial attention. The persistence of neglect has been linked to poor rehabilitation outcome in patients suffering from acute stroke. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) applied to the parietal cortex has been shown to induce changes in the perception of stimuli including tactile stimulation of the fingers contra- and ipsilateral to the stimulated hemisphere. Material and methods - In the current study, eleven normal young subjects performed a detection task for cutaneous electrical stimuli to the left or right forearm that had been precued by a preceding visual warning stimulus. To investigate the role of the parietal cortical areas for attentional processes TMS was applied to frontal and parietal scalp sites of each hemisphere in the cue-target interval before the somatosensory stimulus. Results - Right and left parietal stimulation led to reduced detection sensitivity for near threshold stimuli to the forearm contralateral to the stimulated hemisphere without hemispheric differences. Ipsilateral tactile perception was not influenced by parietal TMS and there was no change in perception after frontal stimulation to left or right scalp sites. Conclusion - This pattern of results is consistent with a role of the right and left parietal lobe in the distribution of spatial attention and provides an experimental basis for possible therapeutical application of TMS to improve attentional deficits in stroke patients.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)