2022/02/22 | Research | Rehabilitation & Neural Engineering

Auditory stimulation can alleviate visual neglect

A study by the Luzerner Kantonsspital, the ARTORG Gerontechnology and Rehabilitation Lab and the Inselspital Perception and Eye Movement Laboratory, Department of Neurology, has investigated the effect of music with spatial cueing on visual neglect, a neurological perception disorder that might occur after stroke and is associated with negative outcome. The team was able to show that this combined stimulation reduces neglect better than listening to music alone and that an intact inferior parietal lobule helps this effect.

After right-hemispheric stroke neglect patients do not attend to their left. Listening to music may help reduce neglect severity. The positive effect of music can be significantly enhanced and prolonged if music is dynamically moving from right to left (spatial cueing). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2021.12.009

Spatial neglect after right-hemispheric stroke is characterized by the failure to attend or respond to stimuli from the left. Although previous studies have shown short-term effects on attention towards the neglected space using an audio-visual cross-modal effect, a group of clinicians and engineers from Luzern and Bern have now studied a combination of the unspecific effect of music (patients preferred music) with the effects of auditory spatial cueing (music presented dynamically as moving from right to left) on visual neglect.

The team conducted two proof-of-concept experiments with 21 patients with visual neglect after a first right-hemispheric stroke, followed by an experiment on the effects of this combined stimulation on visual exploration behaviour three hours afterwards. The results showed that the specific effect of listening to music with auditory spatial cueing is bigger than the motivational or alerting effect of listening to music alone.

Furthermore, the team showed, that this method is especially efficient in patients with intact inferior parietal lobule – a brain area that is well connected to one hemisphere but also communicates with the other hemisphere. The positive effect of listening to music with auditory spatial cueing may be a promising add-on in the neurorehabilitation of neglect, the authors conclude.