NEW SITE FOR SPACE CENTRE
The seat of spatial awareness may not be where we thought, Hans-Otto Karnath and colleagues of the University of Tübingen, Germany, report in this week’s Nature (Vol. 411, No. 6840, 21 Jun 2001). Contrary to the widely held, century-old view that the posterior parietal lobe mediates our interaction with the space around our bodies, Karnath’s team has collected evidence that in humans, as in monkeys, the superior temporal cortex is where notions of space reside.
The researchers studied stroke patients with ‘pure’ spatial neglect — as damaged spatial awareness is known. Patients in previous studies often showed visual, cognitive and spatial defects rather than neglect alone. Karnath’s patients behaved as though part of the space surrounding them had ceased to exist — often shaving or drawing only one side of their faces, for example. The common site of injury turned out to be the superior temporal cortex.
"The classical finding that parietal damage causes hemispatial neglect in humans was ripe for re-examination," says Michael S. A. Graziano of Princeton University, New Jersey, in an accompanying News and Views article. Although he points out that "the assignment of particular functions to specific brain regions can only be taken so far".
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