Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports

, Volume 3, Issue 6, pp 508–512 | Cite as

Visual agnosia

  • I. Biran
  • H. B. Coslett


The visual agnosias are an intriguing class of clinical phenomena that have important implications for current theories of high-level vision. Visual agnosia is defined as impaired object recognition that cannot be attributed to visual loss, language impairment, or a general mental decline. At least in some instances, agnostic patients generate an adequate internal representation of the stimulus but fail to recognize it. In this review, we begin by describing the classic works related to the visual agnosias, followed by a description of the major clinical variants and their occurrence in degenerative disorders. In keeping with the theme of this issue, we then discuss recent contributions to this domain. Finally, we present evidence from functional imaging studies to support the clinical distinction between the various types of visual agnosias.


Inanimate Object Fusiform Face Area Agnosia Posterior Cortical Atrophy Animate Object 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References and Recommended Reading

  1. 1.
    Freud S: Zur Aufassung der Aphasien. Wien: Deuticke; 1891.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Munk H. Ueber die functionen der grosshirnrinde. In Gesammelte Mittheilungen aus den Jahren 1877–1880. Berlin: Hirschwald; 1881:1877–1880.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Lissauer H: Ein fall von seelenblindheit nebst einem beitrag zur theorie derselben. Arch fur Psychiatrie 1890, 21:222–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Lissauer H: A case of visual agnosia with a contribution to theory (translation from German by Jackson, M). Cogn Neuropsychol 1988, 5:153–192.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Teuber HL: Alteration of perception and memory in man. In Analysis of Behavioral Change. Edited by Weiskrantz L. New York: Harper and Row; 1968.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Finkelnburg FC: Niederrheinische Gesellscahft in Bonn. Medicinische Section. Berl Klin Wochenschr 1870, 7:449–450, 460–461.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Jackson JH: Case of large cerebral tumour without optic neuritis and with left hemiplegia and imperception. In Selected Writings of John Hughlings Jackson. Edited by Taylor J. New York: Basic Books; 1958.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Warrington EK, Shallice T: Category specific semantic impairments. Brain 1984, 107:829–854.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    De Renzi E, Perani D, Carlesimo GA, et al.: Prosopagnosia can be associated with damage confined to the right hemisphere: an MRI and PET study and a review of the literature. Neuropsychologia 1994, 32:893–892.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Rapcsak SZ, Nielsen L, Littrell LD, et al.: Face memory impairments in patients with frontal lobe damage. Neurology 2001, 57:1168–1175.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Geschwind N: Disconnexion syndromes in animals and man. Brain 1965, 88:237–294, 585–644.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Kinsbourne M, Warrington EK: Observations on colour agnosia. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 1964, 27:296–299.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Coslett HB, Saffran E: Disorders of higher visual processing: theoretical and clinical perspectives. In Cognitive Neuropsychology in Clinical Practice. Edited by Margolin D. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1991:353–404.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Pallis CA: Impaired identification of locus and places with agnosia for colours. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 1955, 18:218–224.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Aguirre GK. Topographical disorientation: a disorder of wayfinding ability. In Neurological Foundations of Cognitive Neuroscience, edn 1. Edited by D’Esposito M. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press; 2003.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Balint R: Seelenlahmung des "Schauens", Optische Ataxie, raumliche Storung der Aufmerksamkeit. Monatschrift fur Psychiatrie und Neurologie 1909, 25:51–81.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Rizzo M, Vecera SP: Psychoanatomical substrates of Balint’s syndrome. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2002, 72:162–178.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Goethals M, Santens P: Posterior cortical atrophy. Two case reports and a review of the literature. Clin Neurol Neurosurg 2001, 103:115–119.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Mendez MF, Ghajarania M, Perryman KM: Posterior cortical atrophy: clinical characteristics and differences compared to Alzheimer’s disease. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord 2002, 14:33–40. A comparison of the clinical presentation, the cognitive deficit pattern, and brain imaging of patients with posterior cortical atrophy and typical Alzheimer’s disease.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Evans JJ, Heggs AJ, Hodges NA Jr: Progressive prosopagnosia associated with selective right temporal lobe atrophy. A new syndrome? Brain 1995, 118:1–13.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Hodges JR: Frontotemporal dementia (Pick’s disease): clinical features and assessment. Neurology 2001 5611 (suppl 4):S6-S10.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Mendez MF, Ghajarnia M: Agnosia for familiar faces and odors in a patient with right temporal lobe dysfunction. Neurology 2001, 57:519–521.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Gabrovska VS, Laws KR, Sinclair J, McKenna PJ: Visual object processing in schizophrenia: evidence for an associative agnosic deficit. Schizophr Res 2003, 59:277–286.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Onitsuka T, Shenton ME, Kasai K, et al.: Fusiform gyrus volume reduction and facial recognition in chronic schizophrenia. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2003, 60:349–355.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    McKenna PJ, Laws K: Schizophrenic amnesia. In Neuropsychology of Memory. Edited by Parkin AJ. Hove, UK: Psychology Press; 1997.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Posner MI, Walker JA, Friedrich FJ, Rafal RD: Effects of parietal injury on covert orienting of attention. J Neurosci 1984, 4:1863–1874.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Pavese A, Coslett HB, Saffran E, Buxbaum L: Limitations of attentional orienting. Effects of abrupt visual onsets and offsets on naming two objects in a patient with simultanagnosia. Neuropsychologia 2002, 40:1097–1103. A case study of a patient with simultanagnosia, demonstrating a deficit in disengaging from a target in the visual environment, which is the first step in reallocating attention according to the Posner paradigm.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Smith WS, Mindelzun RE, Miller B: Simultanagnosia through the eyes of an artist. Neurology 2003, 60:1832–1834.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Bobes MA, Lopera F, Garcia M, et al.: Covert matching of unfamiliar faces in a case of prosopagnosia: an ERP study. Cortex 2003, 39:41–56.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Barton JJ, Cherkasova M: Face imagery and its relation to perception and covert recognition in prosopagnosia. Neurology 2003, 61:220–225.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Bartolomeo P, Bachoud-Levi AC, Chokron S, Dogos JD: Visually- and motor-based knowledge of letters: evidence from a pure alexic patient. Neuropsychologia 2003, 40:1363–1371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Caramazza A, Shelton JR: Domain-specific knowledge systems in the brain the animate-inanimate distinction. J Cogn Neurosci 1998, 10:1–34.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Bertenthal BI, Proffitt DR, Cutting JE: Infant sensitivity to figural coherence in biomechanical motions. J Exp Child Psychol 1984, 37:213–230.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Borgo F, Shallice T: When living things and other ‘sensory quality’ categories behave in the same fashion: a novel category specificity effect. Neurocase 2001, 7:201–220.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    McRae K, Cree GS: Factors underlying category-specific semantic deficits. In Category-Specificity in Brain and Mind. Edited by Forde EM, Humphreys GW. East Sussex, UK: Psychology Press; 2002.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Malach R, Reppas JB, Benson RR, et al.: Object-related activity revealed by functional magnetic resonance imaging in human occipital cortex. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1995, 92:8135–8139.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Malach R, Levy I, Hasson U: The topography of high-order human object areas. Trends Cogn Sci 2002, 6:176–184.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Kanwisher N, McDermott J, Chun MM: The fusiform face area: a module in human extrastriate cortex specialized for face perception. J Neurosci 1997, 17:4302–4311.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Gauthier I, Tarr MJ, Moylan J, et al.: The fusiform "face area" is part of a network that processes faces at the individual level. J Cogn Neurosci 2000, 12:495–504.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Epstein R, Kanwisher N: A cortical representation of the local visual environment. Nature 1998, 392:598–601.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Chao LL, Haxby JV, Martin A: Attribute-based neural substrates in temporal cortex for perceiving and knowing about objects. Nat Neurosci 1999, 2:913–919.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Polk TA, Stallcup M, Aguirre GK, et al.: Neural specialization for letter recognition. J Cogn Neurosci 2002, 14:145–159.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Allison T, McCarthy G, Nobre A, et al.: Human extrastriate visual cortex and the perception of faces, words, numbers, and colors. Cereb Cortex 1994, 4:544–554.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Price CJ, Devlin JT: The myth of the visual word form area. Neuroimage 2003, 19:473–481.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Levy I, Hasson U, Avidan G, et al.: Center-periphery organization of human object areas. Nat Neurosci 2001, 4:533–539. A functional magnetic resonance imaging study looking at the association between category specificity and retinotopic organization.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Current Science Inc. 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. Biran
    • 1
  • H. B. Coslett
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of NeurologyUniversity of Pennsylvania School of MedicinePhiladelphiaUSA

Personalised recommendations