Crossmodal visual-tactile extinction: Modulation by posture implicates biased competition in proprioceptively reconstructed space.
Kennett S., Rorden C., Husain M., Driver J.
Extinction is a common consequence of unilateral brain injury: contralesional events can be perceived in isolation, yet are missed when presented concurrently with competing events on the ipsilesional side. This can arise crossmodally, where a contralateral touch is extinguished by an ipsilateral visual event. Recent studies showed that repositioning the hands in visible space, or making visual events more distant, can modulate such crossmodal extinction. Here, in a detailed single-case study, we implemented a novel spatial manipulation when assessing crossmodal extinction. This was designed not only to hold somatosensory inputs and hand/arm-posture constant, but also to hold (retinotopic) visual inputs constant, yet while still changing the spatial relationship of tactile and visual events in the external world. Our right hemisphere patient extinguished left-hand touches due to visual stimulation of the right visual field (RVF) when tested in the usual default posture with eyes/head directed straight ahead. But when her eyes/head were turned to the far left (and any visual events shifted along with this), such that the identical RVF retinal stimulation now fell at the same external location as the left-hand touch, crossmodal extinction was eliminated. Since only proprioceptive postural cues could signal this changed spatial relationship for the critical condition, our results show for the first time that such postural cues alone are sufficient to modulate crossmodal extinction. Identical somatosensory and retinal inputs can lead to severe crossmodal extinction, or none, depending on current posture.