Background: Once a person identifies a visual object, the ability to detect a second object is impaired for the next few hundred milliseconds. This attentional blink is reported to increase in subjects with neglect due to acute right hemisphere lesions. Method: To examine neural substrates of the attentional blink, the authors examined the performance of 13 subjects with chronic focal brain lesions visualized by MRI and nine control subjects without neurologic impairments on a rapid serial visual presentation task that used letters as targets. Results: Attentional blink length in the lesion group was more than twice that of controls (p < 0.05). The magnitude of the attentional blink deficit was greatest when the second target appeared 200 ms after the first target, recovering close to baseline by 1,200 ms. Abnormal attentional blink occurred (even in the absence of neglect) with lesions in the occipitotemporal areas (associated with "object" vision) and the prefrontal cortices (thought to mediate visual working memory). Conclusions: Attentional blink length and attentional blink magnitude measure different components of the attentional blink process. Abnormal attentional blink can occur with different chronic focal brain lesions in a network of structures for vision and attention, and it has no special status in hemispatial neglect. Abnormal attentional blink may help explain difficulties on rapid, visually demanding cognitive tasks such as reading and automobile driving and may explain performance deficits in brain damaged patients with nonspatial disorders of visual processing.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology