In a study published in the journal ‘Neurology” in August 2013, a team studying a group of Stroke patients found that over half of them had an attention disorder not picked up on bed side assessments. They studied 110 patients. All the subjects in the trial were required to participate in a computer game style attention network test (ANT) to measure alertness, orientation and executive control.
The results showed that over 50% of the subjects had an undiagnosed attention disorder. The form in which this attention deficit presented was dependent on the area of the brain affected by the stroke.
· Front of the brain – experienced difficulty filtering out distraction
· Back of the brain – had difficulty following instructions
· Center of the brain – showed a reduction in alertness.
These results could allow doctors to more easily predict the likely attention disorder a patient may have and therefore allow more specific testing. Once a specific diagnosis of the attention deficit is made then patients could use computer games developed as brain training aids to specifically rehabilitate these areas. It may also lead to more personalised drug therapies.
Dr. Paul Bentley of the department of medicine at Imperial College London says: “Since these 3 types of attention are controlled by different brain chemicals – dopamine, acetylcholine and adrenaline, these results indicate that patients could be treated with a medicine type appropriate to the brain part damaged.”
The researchers add that drugs designed to regulate the release of these chemicals are already available for other neurological disorders, and could therefore be explored for the treatment of attention disorders within stroke patients.
Triple dissociation of attention networks in stroke according to lesion location” Paul Rinne, Mursyida Hassan, Despina Goniotakis and others, Neurology, August 27, 2013, vol. 81 no. 9, pages 812-820.