Tactile Agnosia: Underlying Impairment and Implications for Normal Tactile Object Recognition

Document Type



Psychology (CMC)

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In a series of experimental investigations of a subject with a unilateral impairment of tactile object recognition without impaired tactile sensation, several issues were addressed. First, is tactile agnosia secondary to a general impairment of spatial cognition? On tests of spatial ability, including those directed at the same spatial integration process assumed to be taxed by tactile object recognition, the subject performed well, implying a more specific impairment of high level, modality specific tactile perception. Secondly, within the realm of high level tactile perception, is there a distinction between the ability to derive shape (‘what’) and spatial (‘where’) information? Our testing showed an impairment confined to shape perception. Thirdly, what aspects of shape perception are impaired in tactile agnosia? Our results indicate that despite accurate encoding of metric length and normal manual exploration strategies, the ability tactually to perceive objects with the impaired hand, deteriorated as the complexity of shape increased. In addition, asymmetrical performance was not found for other body surfaces (e.g. her feet). Our results suggest that tactile shape perception can be disrupted independent of general spatial ability, tactile spatial ability, manual shape exploration, or even the precise perception of metric length in the tactile modality.

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© 1996 Oxford University Press