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The Different Forms of Hemineglect

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Hemineglect, also called hemispatial neglect, unilateral inattention and unilateral spatial neglect, is a neurological condition in which the patient has “an apparent unawareness or unresponsiveness to stimuli in the side of space opposite the brain damage,” according to Jenni A. Ogden, PhD, author of the book Fractured Minds: A Case-Study Approach to Clinical Neuropsychology.

The term “hemineglect” means that the patient has symptoms on one side of the body as a result of brain damage on the other side of the body. The neglect occurs when part of the brain is damaged, most noticeably from an aggressive tumor, like a glioma. A meningioma, a slow growing benign tumor, may also result in symptoms. Ogden notes that a patient with a hemorrhagic stroke may have hemineglect symptoms at first, but these symptoms go away once the affected neurons become functional again.

Left-Sided Neglect

A patient has left-sided neglect occurs when the right hemisphere is damaged. A patient with a right hemisphere lesion tends to joke about her problem. She may even be indifferent about her condition. Ogden notes in her book the case study of Janet, who had left-sided neglect and joked about her condition. For example, when a nurse asked Janet to cover her left shoulder, which Janet could not do because of motor neglect, she responded that she was starting a “new fashion look.”

The worse cases of hemineglect occur when the patient has damage on the parietal lobe on the right hemisphere. Other symptoms of left-sided neglect include not completing drawings by leaving out the left side of the image, and missing items or people who are on the left side of her body.

Right-Sided Neglect

If a patient has a lesion on the left hemisphere, she has neglect on the right side of her body, but the symptoms of left-sided neglect are reversed. For example, the patient will not see people who are by the right side of her body. However, unlike a patient with left-sided neglect, a patient with right-sided neglect does not joke about her symptoms, and tends to have a depressive reaction, according to Ogden.

Other Forms of Neglect

A person may have another form of neglect that disrupts normal functions. For example, if the patient has motor neglect, she does not use her limbs on the neglected side of her body. The patient may also have anosognosia, in which she denies that the hemiplegic limb belongs to her. While less common, a patient may have auditory neglect or tactile neglect, in which she either has a neglect of sounds or tactile stimulation. For example, if the patient has a right hemisphere lesion that results in tactile neglect, she will not be able to feel sensations on the left side of her body.
Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch received her bachelor’s of science degree in neuroscience from Trinity College in Hartford, CT in May 2009. She is the Hartford Women's Health Examiner and she writes about abuse on Suite 101.

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