Disruptions of the Human Connectome Associated With Hemispatial Neglect

Background and Objectives

Hemispatial neglect is a heterogeneous and complex disorder that can be classified by frame of reference for “left” vs “right,” including viewer-centered neglect (VCN, affecting the contralesional side of the view), stimulus-centered neglect (SCN, affecting the contralesional side of the stimulus, irrespective of its location with respect to the viewer), or both. We investigated the effect of acute stroke lesions on the connectivity of neural networks that underlie VCN or SCN.

Methods

A total of 174 patients within 48 hours of acute right hemispheric infarct underwent a detailed hemispatial neglect assessment that included oral reading, scene copy, line cancellation, gap detection, horizontal line bisection tests, and MRI. Each patient’s connectivity map was generated. We performed a linear association analysis between network connectivity strength and continuous measures of neglect to identify lesion-induced disconnections associated with the presence or severity of VCN and SCN. Results were corrected for multiple comparisons.

Results

About 42% of the participants with right hemisphere stroke had at least one type of neglect. The presence of any type of neglect was associated with lesions to tracts connecting the right inferior parietal cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, and right thalamus to other right-hemispheric structures. VCN only was strongly associated with tracts connecting the right putamen to other brain regions and tracts connecting right frontal regions with other brain regions. The presence of both types of neglect was most strongly associated with tracts connecting the right inferior and superior parietal cortex to other brain regions and those connecting left or right mesial temporal cortex to other brain regions.

Discussion

Our study provides new evidence for the specific white matter tracts where disruption can cause hemispatial neglect in a relatively large number of participants and homogeneous time after onset. We obtained MRI and behavioral testing acutely, before the opportunity for rehabilitation or substantial recovery.

Classification of Evidence

This study provides Class II evidence that damage to specific white matter tracts identified on MRI are associated with the presence of neglect following right hemispheric stroke.

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