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Drugs for Parkinson’s May Be Useful for Stroke-related Disabilit

ems after a right-brain stroke fall under the broad heading of neglect: inability to detect a stimulus or do something about it. Neglect is highly disabling since it interferes with a number of basic activities such as dressing, self-care and driving, Sapir notes.

Every year, approximately 3 to 5 million people with strokes on the right side of the brain between the ear and the temple develop a condition known as spatial neglect that hampers their ability to notice things on their left side. Patients may seem to be unaware of their left arm, for example, or might fail to eat from the left side of a food tray. The condition is most severe in the first few months following a stroke, but in some patients it becomes a chronic problem.

Some patients with strokes in this area develop a slightly different condition known as motor neglect. This causes them to be slow to act toward the left side of their environment. It might, for example, make them slow to swat at a bug that lands on their left side.

How to separate slowness to notice a stimulus (spatial neglect) from slowness to act on a stimulus (motor neglect) has been a persistent problem for neuroscientists. In a common laboratory test of neglect's effects, patients watch a video screen for the appearance of a stimulus, usually a symbol or shape, on either the left or the right side of the screen. When they see a stimulus, they report which side it was on to researchers.

The challenge for researchers was that spatial neglect and motor neglect produced the same results—a patient who was slow to report stimuli appearing on the left side of the video screen. This was true for spatial neglect patients because they were slow to see the stimulus; motor neglect patients could see it but were slow to make the movements required to report that they had seen it.

To overcome this problem, Sapir had patients start the test with their hand on a button located to th
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