Effects of Lesions of Temporal-Parietal Junction on Perceptual and Attentional Processing in Humans


When stimuli with larger forms (global) containing smaller forms (local) are presented to subjects with large lesions in the right hemisphere, they are more likely to miss the global form than the local form, whereas subjects with large lesions in the left are more likely to miss the local than the global form. The present study tested whether the global/local impairment in subjects with posterior lesions was due to deficits in controlled attentional processes, passive perceptual processes, or both. Attentional control was examined by measuring reaction time changes when the probability of a target appearing at either the global or local level was varied. Patients with unilateral right or left lesions centered in temporal-parietal regions and age-matched controls served as subjects. Because neurophysiological and neuropsychological evidence have implicated temporal regions in visual discrimination and inferior parietal regions in the allocation of attention to locations in the visual field, patients with left hemisphere lesions were further subdivided into those with lesions centered in the superior temporal gyrus (LSTG) or rostral inferior parietal lobule (LIPL). Patients with right hemisphere injury could not be analogously subdivided. The results revealed that the LSTG group was able to control the allocation of attention to global and local levels normally, while the LIPL group was not. In contrast, the LSTG group showed a strong baseline reaction time advantage toward global targets, while normals and the LIPL group showed no advantage toward one level or the other. Finally, the perceptual component was affected differentially by lesions in the right hemisphere and LSTG, with lesions in the left favoring global targets and lesions in the right favoring local targets. These findings indicate that the hemispheric global/local asymmetry is due to a perceptual mechanism with a critical anatomical locus centered in the STG.