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"Where is the sun" for hemi-neglect patients?

Human observers use prior constraints to disambiguate a scene; in particular, light is preferentially seen as coming from above but also slightly from the left. One explanation of this lateral bias could be a cerebral hemispheric difference. The aim of the present study was to determine the preferred light source position for neglect patients. For this purpose, we used the ambiguous shaded "Polo Mint" stimulus, a ring divided into eight equal sectors. All sectors but one were the same shape, convex or concave, as determined by the light source position. Participants had to report the side (left or right) of the odd sector or, in a separate experiment, to report its shape (convex or concave). Eight patients with spatial neglect (left neglect N=7, right neglect N=1) after a right or left temporo-parietal or thalamic lesion and 14 control participants ran the experiment. Left neglect patients showed a significantly different light bias from the bias observed for controls and for the right neglect patient (i.e., a reduction of the left bias or a right bias rather than a left bias). We conclude that some disabilities presented by patients with spatial neglect may be due to difficulties processing information that is not present in the visual field or imagined in the representational scene. Copyright 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.