The Mobility Assessment Course for the Diagnosis of Spatial Neglect: Taking a Step Forward?
Chen, Celia Shin Wen
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Spatial neglect after stroke can be a challenging syndrome to diagnose under standard neuropsychological assessment. There is now sufficient evidence that those affected might demonstrate neglect behavior in everyday settings despite showing no signs of neglect during common neglect tasks. This discrepancy is attributed to the simplified and unrealistic nature of common pen and paper based tasks that do not match the demanding, novel, and complex environment of everyday life. As such, increasing task demands under more ecologically valid scenarios has become an important method of increasing test sensitivity. The main aim of the current study was to evaluate the diagnostic utility of the Mobility Assessment Course (MAC), an ecological task, for the assessment of neglect. If neglect becomes more apparent under more challenging task demands the MAC could prove to be more diagnostically accurate at detecting neglect than conventional methods, particularly as the time from initial brain damage increases. Data collected by Guide Dogs of SA/NT were retrospectively analyzed. The Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curve, a measure of sensitivity and specificity, was used to investigate the diagnostic utility of the MAC and a series of paper and pencil tests in 67 right hemisphere stroke survivors. While the MAC proved to be a more sensitive neglect test (74.2%) when compared to the Star Cancellation (43.3%) and Line Bisection (35.7%) tests, this was at the expense of relatively low specificity. As a result, the ROC curve analysis showed no statistically discernable differences between tasks (p > 0.12), or between subacute and chronic groups for individual tasks (p > 0.45). It is concluded that, while the MAC is an ecologically valid alternative for assessing neglect, regarding its diagnostic accuracy, there is currently not enough evidence to suggest that it is a big step forward in comparison to the accuracy of conventional tests.