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Brain Lang. 2002 Aug;82(2):179-99.

Knowledge of object manipulation and object function: dissociations in apraxic and nonapraxic subjects.

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Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, 1200 W. Tabor Rd., Philadelphia, Pennysylvania 19141, USA.


An influential account of selective semantic deficits posits that visual features are heavily weighted in the representations of animals, whereas information about function is central in the representations of tools (e.g., Warrington & Shallice, 1984 ). An alternative account proposes that information about all types of objects-animate and inanimate alike-is represented in a distributed semantic architecture by verbal-propositional, tactile, visual, and proprioceptive-motor nodes, reflecting the degree to which these systems were activated when the knowledge was acquired (e.g., Allport, 1985 ). We studied a group of left hemisphere chronic stroke patients, some of whom were apraxic, with measures of declarative tool and animal knowledge, body part knowledge, and function and manipulation knowledge of artifacts. Apraxic (n=7) and nonapraxic (n=6) subjects demonstrated a double dissociation of performance on tests of tool and animal knowledge, suggesting that the apraxic group was not simply more severely impaired overall. Apraxics were relatively impaired in manipulation knowledge, whereas nonapraxics tended to be relatively impaired in function knowledge. Apraxics were also more impaired with body parts than nonapraxics. The association of gestural praxis, tool knowledge, body part knowledge, and manipulation knowledge suggests a coherent basis for the organization of semantic artifact knowledge in frontoparietal cortical regions specialized for sensorimotor functions, and thus provides support for the distributed architecture account of the semantic system.

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