Memories are made of this: the effects of time on stored visual knowledge in a case of visual agnosia

Brain. 1999 Mar:122 ( Pt 3):537-59. doi: 10.1093/brain/122.3.537.


We report the effects of the passage of time on the longterm visual knowledge for objects in a patient with visual agnosia (H.J.A.). The naming of real objects was found to have improved, although this was not associated with any change in H.J.A.'s basic perceptual abilities which were stable over a 16-year period. The improvement in object naming was attributed to better use of non-contour-based visual information (such as surface detail and depth cues). In addition, we demonstrate a deterioration in H.J.A.'s long-term memory for the visual properties of objects, and argue that this has occurred as a result of his having impaired perceptual input. The deterioration was only apparent in drawing from memory and in the verbal descriptions of items; with forced-choice testing, H.J.A. operated at ceiling; we propose that current tests of visual imagery may not be sufficiently sensitive to detect subtle impairments of visual memory. Our findings can be taken to indicate that perceptual and memorial processes are not functionally independent, but are linked in an interactive manner.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Agnosia / diagnosis
  • Agnosia / etiology
  • Agnosia / physiopathology*
  • Agnosia / psychology
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / complications
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / physiopathology
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Perception*