Prism adaptation does not alter configural processing of faces

Janet H Bultitude, Paul E Downing, Robert D Rafal

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Patients with hemispatial neglect ('neglect') following a brain lesion show difficulty responding or orienting to objects and events on the left side of space. Substantial evidence supports the use of a sensorimotor training technique called prism adaptation as a treatment for neglect. Reaching for visual targets viewed through prismatic lenses that induce a rightward shift in the visual image results in a leftward recalibration of reaching movements that is accompanied by a reduction of symptoms in patients with neglect. The understanding of prism adaptation has also been advanced through studies of healthy participants, in whom adaptation to leftward prismatic shifts results in temporary neglect-like performance. Interestingly, prism adaptation can also alter aspects of non-lateralised spatial attention. We previously demonstrated that prism adaptation alters the extent to which neglect patients and healthy participants process local features versus global configurations of visual stimuli. Since deficits in non-lateralised spatial attention are thought to contribute to the severity of neglect symptoms, it is possible that the effect of prism adaptation on these deficits contributes to its efficacy. This study examines the pervasiveness of the effects of prism adaptation on perception by examining the effect of prism adaptation on configural face processing using a composite face task. The composite face task is a persuasive demonstration of the automatic global-level processing of faces: the top and bottom halves of two familiar faces form a seemingly new, unknown face when viewed together. Participants identified the top or bottom halves of composite faces before and after prism adaptation. Sensorimotor adaptation was confirmed by significant pointing aftereffect, however there was no significant change in the extent to which the irrelevant face half interfered with processing. The results support the proposal that the therapeutic effects of prism adaptation are limited to dorsal stream processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215
JournalF1000 Research
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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