The man whose brain ignores one half of his world
Alan Burgess doesn’t need a rhyme to remember the 5th of November. He’ll never forget the day he had his stroke. It left him with a syndrome known as hemispatial neglect and a strange new perspective.
I asked him how he explains this to other people. “I say it’s two different worlds,” says Burgess. “My old world finished on 5 November 2007 and the new world started the same day.”
His stroke damaged the parietal lobe on the right side of his brain, the part that deals with the higher processing of attention. The damage causes him to ignore people, sounds, and objects on his left.
“Hemispatial neglect typically occurs after a stroke,” says Dr Paresh Malhotra, senior lecturer in neurology at Imperial College London. “It is not blindness in one eye, and it’s not damage to the primary sensory cortex, it’s a process of ignoring, for want of a better word, one side of space.”