Questioning the Living/Nonliving Dichotomy: Evidence from a Patient with an Unusual Semantic Dissociation

Simona Siri, Stefano F. Cappa, Elizabeth A. Kensinger, Kristin L. Hood, Suzanne Corkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In this article the authors describe a patient (J.P.) whose category-specific naming deficit eluded the classical dichotomies between living versus nonliving items or visual versus functional attributes. At age 22, he had herpes simplex encephalitis followed by a left temporal lobectomy. J.P. was tested on measures of visual perception, category naming, fluency, and name-picture matching. He showed a severe impairment naming and identifying fruits, vegetables, and musical instruments. His performance with animals and birds was spared inconsistently, meaning that even the preserved categories were, at some point, affected. J.P.'s unusual deficit supports the hypothesis that semantic knowledge is organized in the brain on the basis of object properties, which can cut across the living-nonliving categorical distinction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)630-645
Number of pages16
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2003


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

Cite this