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Good Read: ‘LEFT Neglected’ by Lisa Genova

Hemispatial neglect is most frequently associated with a lesion of the right parietal lobe (in yellow, at top)

Do you remember that book called ‘Still Alice’? It covered the topic of early onset Alzheimer’s, and definitely brought tears to this girl’s eyes. Now the author is back with her second novel, ‘LEFT Neglected’. This time she has something to say about a condition called (you guessed it) left neglect, more commonly known as ‘hemispatial neglect’.

According to Wikipedia:

Hemispatial neglect, also called hemiagnosia, hemineglect, unilateral neglect, spatial neglect or neglect syndrome is a neuropsychological condition in which, after damage to one hemisphere of the brain, a deficit in attention to and awareness of one side of space is observed. Hemispatial neglect is very commonly contralateral to the damaged hemisphere, but instances of ipsilesional neglect (on the same side as the lesion) have been reported.

Hemispatial neglect results most commonly from brain injury to the right cerebral hemisphere, causing visual neglect of the left-hand side of space. Right-sided spatial neglect is rare because there is redundant processing of the right space by both the left and right cerebral hemispheres, whereas in most left-dominant brains the left space is only processed by the right cerebral hemisphere. Although most strikingly affecting visual perception (‘visual neglect’), neglect in other forms of perception can also be found, either alone, or in combination with visual neglect.

In an extreme case, a patient with neglect might fail to eat the food on the left half of their plate, even though they complain of being hungry. If someone with neglect is asked to draw a clock, their drawing might show only the numbers 12 and 1 to 6, the other side being distorted or left blank. Neglect patients may also ignore the contralesional side of their body, shaving or adding make-up only to the non-neglected side.

Neglect may also present as a delusional form, where the patient denies ownership of a limb or an entire side of the body. Since this delusion often occurs alone without the accompaniment of other delusions, it is often labeled as a monothematic delusion.”

Wow. A pretty heavy topic to write about. But the author knows her subject well and does-so with finesse and (occasional, where appropriate) humor. It makes you suddenly think about a condition you may have never heard of before, or perhaps didn’t entirely understand. Much like her previous novel, the book involves a lead female character whose priorities must change after her condition develops. You travel with her as she gets used to life with her disability and you see how she recovers, if at all. The author knows how to keep it real, pulling our heartstrings along as if it were our own friend or family member (or perhaps even ourselves) with the condition.

Highly recommended reading.

Text Resource: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemispatial_neglect
Find ‘LEFT Neglected’ here: http://www.amazon.com/Left-Neglected-Lisa-Genova/dp/1439164630/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1297740443&sr=8-1
(I am not an affiliate of Amazon, nor do I make any money off this post.)

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