Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

Cortex. 2008 Feb;44(2):109-18. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2006.06.004. Epub 2007 Nov 17

Selective deficit of mental visual imagery with intact primary visual cortex and visual perception

There is a vigorous debate as to whether visual perception and imagery share the same neuronal networks, whether the primary visual cortex is necessarily involved in visual imagery, and whether visual imagery functions are lateralized in the brain. Two patients with brain damage from closed head injury were submitted to tests of mental imagery in the visual, tactile, auditory, gustatory, olfactory and motor domains, as well as to an extensive testing of cognitive functions. A computerized mapping procedure was used to localize the site and to assess the extent of the lesions. One patient showed pure visual mental imagery deficits in the absence of imagery deficits in other sensory domains as well as in the motor domain, while the other patient showed both visual and tactile imagery deficits. Perceptual, language, and memory deficits were conspicuously absent. Computerized analysis of the lesions showed a massive involvement of the left temporal lobe in both patients and a bilateral parietal lesion in one patient. In both patients the calcarine cortex with the primary visual area was bilaterally intact. Our study indicates that: (i) visual imagery deficits can occur independently from deficits of visual perception; (ii) visual imagery deficits can occur when the primary visual cortex is intact and (iii) the left temporal lobe plays an important role in visual mental imagery.

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