Visuospatial neglect (VSN) is a frequent post-stroke neuropsychological cognitive disorder which leaves patients with impaired or even lost awareness for stimuli and/or events on the contralesional hemispace. VSN is reported to occur in 30-70% of right-brain strokes and 20-60% of left-brain strokes. Although spontaneous neurological recovery of VSN occurs in most patients within the first 10-12 weeks post-stroke, 20-40% of patients with VSN still show symptoms a year-post stroke. The latter might have important consequences, as VSN is negatively associated with the motor recovery of the upper limb and independence during activities of daily living (ADL).
Although recovery of gait is a primary goal within stroke rehabilitation, little is known about the impact of VSN on the true motor recovery of the lower limbs and on motor performance in general (as measured by gait, balance control and truncal function). As this impact is still unknown, it is difficult for clinicians to provide accurate rehabilitation strategies.
Therefore, it is important to unravel the interaction between VSN on one hand and motor recovery and motor performance on the other hand. This will give us more insights in the interplay between spatially-oriented cognitive processes and motor functioning, therefore providing a possible framework for the development of new innovative rehabilitation strategies.
The presence of an interaction between cognition (e.g. VSN) and motor function raises the question whether training one aspect can have carry-over effects to the other. A very relevant question is thus whether spatial retraining, designed to enhance VSN, can indirectly stimulate the recovery of motor function and performance as well.
In this four-year project, we will address three main research objectives
1) Investigating the impact of VSN on true motor recovery of the lower limbs
2) Investigating the impact of VSN on motor performance as measured by gait, balance control, truncal function
3) Investigating the carry-over effects of spatial retraining on true motor recovery of the lower limbs and motor performance