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Category-selective deficits are the exception and not the rule: Evidence from a case-series of 64 patients with ventral occipitotemporal cortex damage
RICE, G.E., Kerry, S.J., Robotham, R.J., Leff, A.P., LAMBON RALPH, M.A., * Starrfelt, R.
Year of publication:
The organisational principles of the visual ventral stream are still highly debated, particularly the relative association/dissociation between word and face recognition and the degree of lateralisation of the underlying processes. Reports of dissociations between word and face recognition stem from single case-studies of category selective impairments, and neuroimaging investigations of healthy participants. Despite the historical reliance on single case-studies, more recent group studies have highlighted a greater commonality between word and face recognition. Studying individual patients with rare selective deficits misses (a) important variability between patients, (b) systematic associations between task performance, and (c) patients with mild, severe and/or non-selective impairments; meaning that the full spectrum of deficits is unknown. The Back of the Brain project assessed the range and specificity of visual perceptual impairment in 64 patients with posterior cerebral artery stroke recruited based on lesion localization and not behavioural performance. Word, object, and face processing were measured with comparable tests across different levels of processing to investigate associations and dissociations across domains. We present two complementary analyses of the extensive behavioural battery: (1) a data-driven analysis of the whole patient group, and (2) a single-subject case-series analysis testing for deficits and dissociations in each individual patient. In both analyses, the general organisational principle was of associations between words, objects, and faces even following unilateral lesions. The majority of patients either showed deficits across all domains or in no domain, suggesting a spectrum of visuo-perceptual deficits post stroke. Dissociations were observed, but they were the exception and not the rule: Category-selective impairments were found in only a minority of patients, all of whom showed disproportionate deficits for words. Interestingly, such selective word impairments were found following both left and right hemisphere lesions. This large-scale investigation of posterior cerebral artery stroke patients highlights the bilateral representation of visual perceptual function.