Is the Charcot and Bernard case (1883) of loss of visual imagery really based on neurological impairment?

Stefano Zago, Nicola Allegri, Marta Cristoffanini, Roberta Ferrucci, Mauro Porta, Alberto Priori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction. The Charcot and Bernard case of visual imagery, Monsieur X, is a classic case in the history of neuropsychology. Published in 1883, it has been considered the first case of visual imagery loss due to brain injury. Also in recent times a neurological valence has been given to it. However, the presence of analogous cases of loss of visual imagery in the psychiatric field have led us to hypothesise functional origins rather than organic. Methods. In order to assess the validity of such an inference, we have compared the symptomatology of Monsieur X with that found in cases of loss of visual mental images, both psychiatric and neurological, presented in literature. Results. The clinical findings show strong assonances of the Monsieur X case with the symptoms manifested over time by the patients with functionally based loss of visual imagery. Conclusion. Although Monsieur X's damage was initially interpreted as neurological, reports of similar symptoms in the psychiatric field lead us to postulate a functional cause for his impairment as well.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-504
Number of pages24
JournalCognitive Neuropsychiatry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2011


  • Charcot and Bernard
  • Depersonalisation
  • Derealisation
  • Functional
  • Loss of visual imagery
  • Monsieur X
  • Organic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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