Research Topic

The enigma of Bálint’s syndrome: complexity of neural substrates and cognitive deficits

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Bálint’s syndrome is named after the Hungarian physician who first reported a remarkable case of a man with complex visuospatial deficits following bilateral lesions within parietal and occipital cortex (Bálint, 1909). The syndrome has three primary symptoms: simultanagnosia (impaired spatial awareness of ...

Bálint’s syndrome is named after the Hungarian physician who first reported a remarkable case of a man with complex visuospatial deficits following bilateral lesions within parietal and occipital cortex (Bálint, 1909). The syndrome has three primary symptoms: simultanagnosia (impaired spatial awareness of more than one object at time), optic ataxia (misreaching to visual targets) and ocular apraxia (described by Bálint as “psychic paralysis of gaze”). Balint’s patients not only cannot perceive more than one object at time and therefore comprehend multi-object visual scene i.e. detect several object and grasp the relationship between them, they even fail to reach towards location of the single object, which they can perceive. The deficit of the allocation of spatial attention in Balint’s syndrome has been linked to the feature binding problems resulting in illusory conjunctions. Patients with Balint’s syndrome also show deficits in global processing i.e. when integration of multiple local elements into global compound shapes is required. Subsequently, Balint’s syndrome provides a unique opportunity to the nature and neuroanatomy of human visuospatial processing, in particular object representation, spatial awareness and distribution of visual attention. The dissociations between the components of Bálints’ syndrome, in particular simultanagnosia and optic ataxia, co-occurrence with visual neglect and extinction and finaly the different combinations of reported lesions raise a question about the status of the syndrome and whether it should be merely treated as a historical compilation of symptoms which may or may not coexist cohesively.
Our aim is to provide an updated review of the research concerned with Balint’s syndrome and associated symptoms as well to creating a platform that facilitates discussions about this unique disorder. Review papers and original articles (including case studies) in healthy volunteers and neurological patients are welcomed.


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