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Brain. 2001 Jan;124(Pt 1):132-44.

Tactile apraxia: unimodal apractic disorder of tactile object exploration associated with parietal lobe lesions.

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Department of Neurology, Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf, Germany.


Tactile apraxia is characterized by an isolated disturbance of hand movements for use of and interaction with an object (transitive movements) in the presence of preserved intransitive movements (movements without use of an object, for example repetitive movements or gestures). It is, however, still unclear whether motor and sensory abnormalities represent causal or associated features of tactile apraxia. To address this question, quantitative kinematic recordings of exploratory finger movements (transitive movements) and rapid alternating finger movements (intransitive movements) were studied in 20 healthy volunteers and 22 patients with focal lesions of the parietal, anterofrontal and motor cortex. The most severe deficits of manual object exploration were found in patients with parietal lesions, using the hand contralateral to the lesion. Patients with lesions of the anterior parietal lobe who exhibited prominent sensory deficits and astereognosia showed a decrease in frequency and regularity of exploratory finger movements and a marked increase in exploration space. Patients with posterior parietal lesions exhibiting severe astereognosia, apraxia and deficits in dexterity had a greater decrease in frequency and regularity of manipulative movements, but a less pronounced increase of exploration space than the patients with anterior parietal lesions. Although the patients with parietal lobe lesions could generate rapid alternating finger movements, the regularity of these movements was also impaired. In comparison, patients with frontal lobe lesions exhibited impaired contralesional manipulatory and rapid alternating finger movements but no sensory abnormalities or astereognosia. We conclude that tactile apraxia represents a deficit in the programming of exploratory finger movements mediated by the parietal lobe. The comparison with lesions of other regions participating in the cortical network for tactile exploration reveals that apraxia of exploratory movements in parietal lobe lesions represents a disturbance distinct from elementary motor or sensory abnormalities, but closely related to stereognostic functioning.

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