Causes of cross-over in unilateral neglect: Between-group comparisons, within-patient dissociations and eye movements

Fabrizio Doricchi, P. Guariglia, F. Figliozzi, M. Silvetti, G. Bruno, M. Gasparini

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Patients with left unilateral neglect bisect long horizontal lines to the right of the true centre. However, when given short lines, many of the same patients mark the midpoint to the left of the true centre, towards the otherwise neglected space. This paradoxical phenomenon has been termed 'cross-over' and is difficult to explain based on current accounts of the neglect syndrome. To explore the causes of cross-over, in a first study we evaluated bisection of 20, 100 and 200 mm horizontal lines in groups of unilateral brain-damaged patients with neglect and hemianopia, with neglect and no hemianopia, with hemianopia and no neglect and without neglect or hemianopia. Cross-over of 20 mm lines was found only in neglect patients with hemianopia. To ascertain further the influence of visual field defects on cross-over, in a second study we compared the performance of two right-brain-damaged patients with contralesional neglect and inferior quadrantanopia with that of a patient with inferior quadrantanopia and no neglect. Patients bisected lines oriented so as to cross or uncross the blind quadrant of the visual field. When short 20 mm lines crossed the blind quadrant, neglect patients showed cross-over; when the same lines crossed the seeing quadrants cross-over was absent. These findings were confirmed by the examination of a neglect patient with sparing of the central 5° of the contralesional left visual hemifield in the right eye and no sparing in the left eye. In monocular viewing, cross-over was present when 20 mm lines were bisected with the left eye and absent when bisected with the right eye. Recording of eye movements showed that at the moment of bisection left eye fixations shifted towards the contralesional line endpoint whereas right eye fixations remained anchored to the centre of the line. With long lines, both eyes deviated ipsilesionally. These results show that in neglect patients ipsilesional deviation in the bisection of long lines turns into apparently paradoxical contralesional bisection of short ones only when these cross a retinotopically blind sector of the neglected space. Cross-over seems to depend on the small spatial effects produced by reflexive contralesional gaze shifts allowing eccentric fixations with the seeing hemifield. During the bisection of long lines, these effects are cancelled out by the strong attentional deviation induced by the marked extension of the ipsilesional line segment. This explanation establishes coherence between cross-over and current accounts of the neglect syndrome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1386-1406
Number of pages21
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005


  • Crossover effect
  • Eye movement
  • Line bisection
  • Unilateral neglect
  • Visual half-field

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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