Unilateral neglect is a disabling syndrome frequently observed following right hemisphere brain damage. Symptoms range from visuo-motor impairments through to deficient visuo-spatial imagery, but impairment can also affect the auditory modality. A short period of adaptation to a rightward prismatic shift of the visual field is known to improve a wide range of hemispatial neglect symptoms, including visuo-manual tasks, mental imagery, postural imbalance, visuo-verbal measures and number bisection. The aim of the present study was to assess whether the beneficial effects of prism adaptation may generalize to auditory manifestations of neglect. Auditory extinction, whose clinical manifestations are independent of the sensory modalities engaged in visuo-manual adaptation, was examined in neglect patients before and after prism adaptation. Two separate groups of neglect patients (all of whom exhibited left auditory extinction) underwent prism adaptation: one group (n = 6) received a classical prism treatment (‘Prism’ group), the other group (n = 6) was submitted to the same procedure, but wore neutral glasses creating no optical shift (placebo ‘Control’ group). Auditory extinction was assessed by means of a dichotic listening task performed three times: prior to prism exposure (pre-test), upon prism removal (0 h post-test) and 2 h later (2 h post-test). The total number of correct responses, the lateralization index (detection asymmetry between the two ears) and the number of left-right fusion errors were analysed. Our results demonstrate that prism adaptation can improve left auditory extinction, thus revealing transfer of benefit to a sensory modality that is orthogonal to the visual, proprioceptive and motor modalities directly implicated in the visuo-motor adaptive process. The observed benefit was specific to the detection asymmetry between the two ears and did not affect the total number of responses. This indicates a specific effect of prism adaptation on lateralized processes rather than on general arousal. Our results suggest that the effects of prism adaptation can extend to unexposed sensory systems. The bottom-up approach of visuo-motor adaptation appears to interact with higher order brain functions related to multisensory integration and can have beneficial effects on sensory processing in different modalities. These findings should stimulate the development of therapeutic approaches aimed at bypassing the affected sensory processing modality by adapting other sensory modalities.
Keywords: neglect; auditory; prism; adaptation; crossmodal
Journal Article. 9779 words. Illustrated.
Subjects: Neurology ; Neuroscience
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