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Spatial attention and spatial short term memory in PSP and Parkinson’s disease

Smith, D.T and Casteau, S and Archibald, N (2021) 'Spatial attention and spatial short term memory in PSP and Parkinson’s disease.', Cortex., 137 . pp. 49-60.


Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterised by deterioration in motor, oculomotor and cognitive function. A key clinical feature of PSP is the progressive paralysis of eye movements, most notably for vertical saccades. These oculomotor signs can be subtle, however, and PSP is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease (PD), in its early stages. Although some of the clinical features of PD and PSP overlap, they are distinct disorders with differing underlying pathological processes, responses to treatment and prognoses. One key difference lies in the effects the diseases have on cognition. The oculomotor system is tightly linked to cognitive processes such as spatial attention and spatial short-term memory (sSTM), and previous studies have suggested that PSP and PD experience different deficits in these domains. We therefore hypothesised that people with PSP (N = 15) would experience problems with attention (assessed with feature and conjunction visual search tasks) and sSTM (assessed with the Corsi blocks task) compared to people with PD (N = 16) and Age Matched Controls (N = 15). As predicted, feature and conjunction search were sgnificantly slower in the PSP group compared to the other groups, and this deficit was significantly worse for feature compared to conjunction search. The PD group did not differ from AMC on feature search but were significantly impaired on the conjunction search. The PSP group also had a pronounced vertical sSTM impairment that was not present in PD or AMC groups. It is argued that PSP is associated with specific impairment of visuospatial cognition which is caused by degeneration of the oculomotor structures that support exogenous spatial attention, consistent with oculomotor theories of spatial attention and memory.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
Date accepted:06 November 2020
Date deposited:19 January 2021
Date of first online publication:22 January 2021
Date first made open access:24 February 2021

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