Simultanagnosia does not affect processes of auditory Gestalt perception

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Abstract

Simultanagnosia is a neuropsychological deficit of higher visual processes caused by temporo-parietal brain damage. It is characterized by a specific failure of recognition of a global visual Gestalt, like a visual scene or complex objects, consisting of local elements. In this study we investigated to what extend this deficit should be understood as a deficit related to specifically the visual domain or whether it should be seen as defective Gestalt processing per se. To examine if simultanagnosia occurs across sensory domains, we designed several auditory experiments sharing typical characteristics of visual tasks that are known to be particularly demanding for patients suffering from simultanagnosia. We also included control tasks for auditory working memory deficits and for auditory extinction. We tested four simultanagnosia patients who suffered from severe symptoms in the visual domain. Two of them indeed showed significant impairments in recognition of simultaneously presented sounds. However, the same two patients also suffered from severe auditory working memory deficits and from symptoms comparable to auditory extinction, both sufficiently explaining the impairments in simultaneous auditory perception. We thus conclude that deficits in auditory Gestalt perception do not appear to be characteristic for simultanagnosia and that the human brain obviously uses independent mechanisms for visual and for auditory Gestalt perception.

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