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Cogn Neuropsychol. 2000 Sep 1;17(6):489-516. doi: 10.1080/02643290050110629.

Selective deficit for people's names following left temporal damage: an impairment of domain-specific conceptual knowledge.

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Universita Cattolica and Istituto di Psicologia, CNR, Roma, Italy.


As a consequence of a head trauma, APA presented with selective anomia for the names of familiar people, in the absence of comparable disorders for common names and other proper names. Face recognition was normal; and naming performance was unaffected by stimulus and response types. Selective proper name anomia was not due to effects of frequency of usage or of age of acquisition, or to selective memory/learning deficits for the names of people. Even though APA was able to provide at least some information on many celebrities whom she failed to name, she was clearly impaired in all tasks that required full conceptual information on the same people (but she performed flawlessly in similar tasks that involved common names). This pattern of performance indicates that in our subject the inability to name familiar persons results from damage to conceptual information. It is argued that detailed analyses of conceptual knowledge are necessary before it is concluded that a subject with proper name anomia suffers from a purely output disorder, as opposed to a conceptual disorder. The behaviour observed in APA is consistent with the domain-specific hypothesis of conceptual organisation (Caramazza & Shelton, 1998), and in this framework can be explained by assuming selective damage to knowledge of conspecifics. The anatomo-clinical correlates of our subject's disorder are discussed with reference to recent hypotheses on the neural structures representing knowledge of familiar people.

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