Stroke and hemispatial neglect: The efficacy of stimulus alerting on patient rehabilitation

Dr. Bettina Olk is interested in discovering new ways to rehabilitate patients who have suffered a stroke. Her research focuses on hemispatial neglect, a defective ability to perceive items in space opposite to the side of the brain affected by the stroke. For example, a right hemisphere stroke can cause a person to neglect items that appear on the left side. The person may fail to eat food on the left side of a plate or ignore cars coming from the left. During her research training in Germany and England, Bettina extensively studied the impairments caused by hemispatial neglect. Recent research suggests that a short warning tone can help the brain temporarily overcome this disorder and perceive items opposite the brain lesion. Bettina is studying this phenomenon to determine how long the effect lasts, what kind of warning tone works best, whether a different stimulus could be equally effective, and whether non-visual symptoms of hemispatial neglect are also affected. From this work, she hopes to develop effective ways for stroke patients to overcome the disorder.