Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 151, Issue 1, pp 15–23 | Cite as

Evidence for a unimodal somatosensory attention system

  • Elizabeth Olson
  • Marianna Stark
  • Anjan ChatterjeeEmail author
Research Article


Extinction is generally viewed as a disorder of selective attention for spatial locations. Recent physiologic, behavioral and lesion studies view spatial locations as a complex construct in which multiple modalities and motor systems are integrated. Accordingly, cross-modal and sensory-motor conditions often modify extinction. In a patient with tactile extinction, we tested the hypothesis that attentional deficits can also be confined to a specific sensory modality. Using objectively and subjectively balanced tactile stimuli and signal detection analysis, we found that our patient's contralesional tactile discrimination was not modulated by proprioceptive or visual input or by movement. By contrast, increasing the salience of the contralesional tactile stimuli did improve her contralesional tactile discrimination, consistent with our hypothesis that she suffered from a modality-specific attentional deficit. Additionally, she did not have any evidence of visual extinction, again bolstering our claim that her extinction was confined to touch. These data suggest that in addition to polymodal and sensory-motor attentional systems, spatial attention also operates on specific sensations. We also advocate the use of signal detection analysis, a method that has been surprisingly neglected in extinction research.


Neglect Extinction Cross-modal integration Tactile attention Awareness 



This research was supported by NIH grant RO1NS37539. We also thank Ashley Wilson for help with data collection.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Olson
    • 1
  • Marianna Stark
    • 2
  • Anjan Chatterjee
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Haverford CollegeUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Neurology and Center for Cognitive NeuroscienceUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.3 West Gates3400 Spruce StreetUSA

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