The cognitive profile of posterior cortical atrophy

Neurology. 2006 Feb 14;66(3):331-8. doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000196477.78548.db.


Background: Posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) is a progressive dementia characterized by prominent disorders of higher visual processing, affecting both dorsal and ventral streams to cause Balint's syndrome, alexia, and visual agnosia.

Objective: To define the cognitive profile of PCA and compare to the typical, primary amnestic dementia of the Alzheimer's type (DAT).

Methods: The authors used standard cognitive tests and a novel battery designed to reflect dysfunction in both ventral (Object, Face & Color Agnosia Screen [OFCAS]) and dorsal (complex pictures and compound stimuli) visual streams. The authors identified 19 patients with PCA and compared their performance to a matched group of patients with DAT and normal controls.

Results: Patients with PCA were younger with marked impairment in visuospatial tasks, reading, and writing but relative preservation of memory compared to DAT using standard tests. Dorsal stream signs were most prevalent among the patients with PCA with no pure ventral stream syndromes found. All novel tests distinguished reliably between subjects with complex picture descriptions and processing of compound stimuli showing the most significant differences compared to DAT.

Conclusions: PCA is predominantly a dorsal stream syndrome, distinct from typical DAT, which involves occipitotemporal regions over time.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Agnosia / etiology
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology
  • Atrophy
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / psychology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prosopagnosia / etiology