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Cortex. 2012 Oct;48(9):1165-78. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2011.06.012. Epub 2011 Jun 22.

An anatomical account of somatoparaphrenia.

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Department of Psychology, University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy.


Somatoparaphrenia is a delusional belief whereby a patient feels that a paralyzed limb does not belong to his body; the symptom is typically associated with unilateral neglect and most frequently with anosognosia for hemiplegia. This association of symptoms makes anatomical inference based on single case studies not sufficiently specific. On the other hand, the only three anatomical group studies on somatoparaphrenia are contradictory: the right posterior insula, the supramarginal gyrus and the posterior corona radiata, or the right medial or orbito-frontal regions were all proposed as specific lesional correlates. We compared 11 patients with and 11 without somatoparaphrenia matched for the presence and severity of other associated symptoms (neglect, motor deficits and anosognosia). To take into account the frequent association of SP and neglect and hemiplegia, patients with and without somatoparaphrenia were also compared with a group of fifteen right brain damage patients without neglect and hemiplegia. We found a lesion pattern involving a fronto-temporo-parietal network typically associated with spatial neglect, hemiplegia and anosognosia. Somatoparaphrenic patients showed an additional lesion pattern primarily involving white matter and subcortical grey structures (thalamus, basal ganglia and amygdala). Further cortical damage was present in the middle and inferior frontal gyrus, postcentral gyrus and hippocampus. We propose that somatoparaphrenia occurs providing that a distributed cortical lesion pattern is present together with a subcortical lesion load that prevents most sensory input from being processed in neocortical structures; involvement of deep cortical and subcortical grey structures of the temporal lobe may contribute to reduce the sense of familiarity experienced by somatoparaphrenic patients for their paralyzed limb.

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