Open Access Study protocol

Randomized control trial of computer-based rehabilitation of spatial neglect syndrome: the RESPONSE trial protocol

Thomas Van Vleet1*, Joseph DeGutis2, Sawsan Dabit1 and Christopher Chiu2

Author Affiliations

1 Brain Plasticity Institute, 77 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA

2 Boston Attention and Learning Laboratory, VA Boston Healthcare System, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, 150 S. Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02130, USA

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BMC Neurology 2014, 14:25  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-14-25

Published: 7 February 2014



Spatial neglect is a frequent and debilitating consequence of acquired brain injury and currently has no widely accepted standard of care. While previous interventions for spatial neglect have targeted patients’ overt spatial deficits (e.g., reduced contralesional visual scanning), far fewer have directly targeted patients’ non-spatial deficits (e.g., sustained attention deficits). Considering that non-spatial deficits have shown to be highly predictive of long-term disability, we developed a novel computer based training program that targets both sustained (tonic) and moment-to-moment (phasic) aspects of non-spatial attention (Tonic and Phasic Alertness Training, TAPAT). Preliminary studies demonstrate that TAPAT is safe and effective in improving both spatial and non-spatial attention deficits in the post-acute recovery phase in neglect patients. The purpose of the current trial (referred to as the REmediation of SPatial Neglect or RESPONSE trial) is to compare TAPAT to an active control training condition, include a larger sample of patients, and assess both cognitive and functional outcomes.


We will employ a multi-site, longitudinal, blinded randomized controlled trial (RCT) design with a target sample of 114 patients with spatial neglect. Patients will either perform, at their home, the experimental TAPAT training program or an active control computer games condition for thirty minutes/day, five days a week, over three months. Patients will be assessed on a battery of cognitive and functional outcomes on three occasions: a) immediately before training, b) within forty-eight hours post completion of total training, and c) after a three-month no-contact period post completion of total training, to assess the longevity of potential training effects.


The strengths of this protocol are that it tests an innovative, in-home administered treatment that targets a fundamental deficit in neglect, employs highly sensitive computer-based assessments of cognition as well as functional outcomes, and incorporates a large sample size (relative to other neglect treatment studies) in an RCT design.

Trial registration identifier, NCT01965951

Hemispatial neglect; Rehabilitation; Non-spatial attention; Stroke; Computer-based cognitive training