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Cereb Cortex. 1993 Nov-Dec;3(6):567-82.

Using locations to store shape: an indirect effect of a lesion.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.


This study had three general points. First, it examined possible visual consequences of frontal lesions. A patient with focal damage to the subcortical regions of the left frontal lobe, and a small amount of damage near Broca's area, was predicted to have impaired brain function in posterior regions that are anatomically connected to the damaged site. Second, it showed the utility of using positron emission tomography (PET) in conjunction with magnetic resonance imaging to characterize "functional lesions." PET revealed reduced metabolism in posterior cortical loci that are innervated by fibers from the damaged regions. Some of the affected areas are hypothesized to be involved in visual functions, specifically the encoding of lines and edges. Third, a series of tests was designed to document that the patient had difficulty encoding visual stimuli, and then to distinguish among alternative possible causes of this deficit. The results suggested that the patient encoded shapes as sets of filled locations if possible, which allowed him to use intact processes subserved by brain areas that were not affected by the damage. The data were best explained if the lesion slowed processing in the ventral system (which encodes object properties), allowing the dorsal system (which encodes spatial properties) to produce a response more quickly than the ventral system.

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