Attention may have an important effect on the successful recovery from a stroke, feel researchers.
People with a curious condition that causes them to apply make-up on only one side of their face, or ignore food on half of their plate, are playing a new role in understanding stroke recovery.
Researchers from the University of Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) have found the condition, a subset of the stroke called "unilateral spatial neglect' (USN), tends to have the worst recovery outcomes in regaining lost functioning in their bodies, leading them to believe attention may have an important impact on recovering successfully.
USN is typically caused by strokes on the right hand side of the brain and manifests in patients ignoring the left side of their body. People with the condition may ignore food on the left side of their plate or, if asked to draw a clock, squash all 12 numbers into the right side of the clock face, leaving the other side blank.
They may also fail to shave, or to put make-up on the left side of their faces. In severe cases, they behave as though the left side of their world does not exist, the Journal of Neuroscience reports.
"We know that brain plasticity plays a critical role in recovering from stroke," says Jason Mattingley, professor of cognitive neuroscience at Queensland. Brain plasticity may be defined as the capacity of the nervous system to change its structure and network over a lifetime, according to a Queensland statement.
"What we're trying to do is explore what effect attention has on brain plasticity, and how attention might be used in neuro-rehabilitation" says Mattingley.
Mattingley adds: "While practical applications remain several steps away, this knowledge may ultimately help us develop more effective strategies for physical therapy after stroke."