Rehabilitating patients with left spatial neglect by prism exposure during a visuomotor activity
OBJECTIVE: Adaptation to prisms displacing the visual scene rightward is a therapeutic tool for left unilateral spatial neglect (USN). We aimed at comparing the effects of the classic adaptation procedure (repeated pointing toward visual targets, control treatment, C), with those of a novel adaptation method, involving ecological visuomotor activities (experimental treatment, E). METHOD: In 10 right-brain-damaged USN patients, each treatment was given for 1 week, with a crossover design, for a total of 20 sessions, twice per day. USN was assessed by cancellation, reading, and drawing tasks, and by a standardized scale. Neurological severity was assessed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) stroke scale (Brott et al., 1989), disability by the Functional Independence Measure (FIM) scale. RESULTS: The 2-week treatments (EC, CE) were equally effective, improving both USN, confirming previous reports (Frassinetti, Angeli, Meneghello, Avanzi, & Làdavas, 2002) and, importantly, disability. The improvement was independent of baseline performance, duration of disease, and neurological severity. Recovery took place after the first week, continued in the second week, and was stable at the follow-up of 3 months. The improvement of USN, measured by cancellation performance, and, in part, that of disability, measured through the FIM scale, were mediated by the size of the leftward aftereffects, suggesting a causal relationship between prism exposure and recovery. The E protocol was better tolerated. CONCLUSIONS: Daily life visuomotor activities, associated with prism exposure, are a useful tool for rehabilitating USN patients. This new treatment may widen the compliance with prism exposure treatments and their feasibility within home-based programs.