Non-spatial extinction following lesions of the parietal lobe in humans


EFFICIENT behaviour in the visual environment requires selection between stimuli competing for control of action. Many current models of selection are spatial: relevant objects are chosen by attending to their locations1–3. The unilateral stimulus extinction observed following lesions of the parietal lobe provides evidence for spatial selection4. Such patients may identify a single stimulus presented in their contralesional field, but can fail to detect the same stimulus when a competing stimulus is shown simultaneously on the ipsilesional side5. Here we demonstrate that extinction need not be spatial in nature, but may be determined by characteristics of the objects to be selected. In two patients with parietal lobe lesions and poor spatial localization, pictures extinguished words and closed shapes extinguished open shapes. This object-based extinction indicates the existence of biases within non-spatial selection mechanisms which are independent of biases produced by spatial selection mechanisms. We suggest that selection of objects for action requires that the 'winners' produced by the independent competitive biases for selection are bound together within distinct neural areas concerned with object properties and space.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Posner, M. I. Quart. J. exp. Psychol. 32, 3–25 (1980).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Moran, J. & Desimone, R. Science 229, 782–784 (1985).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Mozer, M. C. & Behrmann, M. J. cog. Neurosci. 2, 96–123 (1989).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Posner, M. I., Walker, J. A., Friedrich, F. J. & Rafal, R. D. J. Neurosci. 4, 1863–1874 (1984).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Critchley, M. The Parietal Lobes (Edward Arnold, London, 1953).

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Balint, R. Monatsch. für Psychiat. Neurol. 25, 51–81.

  7. 7

    Coslett, B. & Saffran, E. Brain 114, 1523–1545 (1991).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Humphreys, G. W. & Riddoch, M. J. in Attention and Performance XIV (MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1993).

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Egly, R., Driver, J. & Rafal, R. D. J. exp. Psychol.: General 123, 161–177 (1994).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Driver, J. & Halligan, P. W. Cog. Neurosci. 8, 475–496 (1991).

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Kroll, J. F. & Potter, M. C. J. verb. Learn. verb. Behav. 23, 39–66 (1984).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Humphreys, G. W. Quart. J. exp. Psychol. 33A, 17–31 (1981).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Potter, M. C. & Faulconer, B. Nature 253, 437–438 (1975).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Biederman, I. Psychol. Rev. 94, 115–147 (1987).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Ungerleider, L. G. & Mishkin, M. in Analysis of Visual Behavior (MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1982).

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Duncan, J. Perception 22, 1261–1270 (1993).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Humphreys, G., Romani, C., Olson, A. et al. Non-spatial extinction following lesions of the parietal lobe in humans. Nature 372, 357–359 (1994).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing