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Interaction of hand use and spatial selective attention in children
DOBLER, V.B., MANLY, T., Atkinson, J., WILSON, B.A., Ioannou, K. & Robertson, I.H.
Neuropsychologia, 39(10), 1055-1064
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It has been argued that concurrent motor action can modulate visual spatial attention. The visual spatial biases of adult patients with unilateral neglect, for example, can be ameliorated by simultaneous use of the contralesional hand. Such improvements are most dramatic when the contralesional hand is moved within contralesional space. To date, evidence of such an interaction in neurologically healthy individuals has not been presented. Line bisection is a simple task that is sensitive to attentional spatial bias. When young children are asked to bisect horizontal lines using their right hands, they show a reliable if small bias that is consistent with the pattern seen in adult neglect. This bias is reversed when the left hand is used. Here we show that these effects are significantly modulated by the location of the movements relative to the body mid-line - specifically that the conjunction of hand movements within ipsilateral space is necessary for the previously reported pattern to be observed. We further demonstrate that these effects are not present in the bisections of neurologically healthy adults. In a final study we examined whether the hand movement effects seen in children's line bisections would persist in a purely visual task (that is when the movements were made irrelevant to the response). Again, significant modulation of children's perception by concurrent hand movements - and the relative location of those movements - was observed. The theoretical and clinical implications of the results are discussed.