Agnosic vision is like peripheral vision, which is limited by crowding

Francesca Strappini, Denis G. Pelli, Enrico Di Pace, Marialuisa Martelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Visual agnosia is a neuropsychological impairment of visual object recognition despite near-normal acuity and visual fields. A century of research has provided only a rudimentary account of the functional damage underlying this deficit. We find that the object-recognition ability of agnosic patients viewing an object directly is like that of normally-sighted observers viewing it indirectly, with peripheral vision. Thus, agnosic vision is like peripheral vision. We obtained 14 visual-object-recognition tests that are commonly used for diagnosis of visual agnosia. Our “standard” normal observer took these tests at various eccentricities in his periphery. Analyzing the published data of 32 apperceptive agnosia patients and a group of 14 posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) patients on these tests, we find that each patient's pattern of object recognition deficits is well characterized by one number, the equivalent eccentricity at which our standard observer's peripheral vision is like the central vision of the agnosic patient. In other words, each agnosic patient's equivalent eccentricity is conserved across tests. Across patients, equivalent eccentricity ranges from 4 to 40 deg, which rates severity of the visual deficit. In normal peripheral vision, the required size to perceive a simple image (e.g., an isolated letter) is limited by acuity, and that for a complex image (e.g., a face or a word) is limited by crowding. In crowding, adjacent simple objects appear unrecognizably jumbled unless their spacing exceeds the crowding distance, which grows linearly with eccentricity. Besides conservation of equivalent eccentricity across object-recognition tests, we also find conservation, from eccentricity to agnosia, of the relative susceptibility of recognition of ten visual tests. These findings show that agnosic vision is like eccentric vision. Whence crowding? Peripheral vision, strabismic amblyopia, and possibly apperceptive agnosia are all limited by crowding, making it urgent to know what drives crowding. Acuity does not (Song et al., 2014), but neural density might: neurons per deg2 in the crowding-relevant cortical area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-155
Number of pages21
JournalCortex
Volume89
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2017

Keywords

  • Apperceptive agnosia
  • Crowding
  • Integration deficit
  • Integrative agnosia
  • Neural density
  • Object recognition
  • Visual agnosia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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