Hemispheric Dominance for Stereognosis in a Patient With an Infarct of the Left Postcentral Sensory Hand Area

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Abstract

The concept of left hemispheric dominance for praxis, speech, and language has been one of the pillars of neurology since the mid-19th century. In 1906, Hermann Oppenheim reported a patient with bilateral stereoagnosia (astereognosis) caused by a left parietal lobe tumor and proposed that the left hemisphere was also dominant for stereognosis. Surprisingly, few cases of bilateral stereoagnosia caused by a unilateral cerebral lesion have been documented in the literature since then. Here we report a 75-year-old right-handed man who developed bilateral stereoagnosia after suffering a small infarct in the crown of the left postcentral gyrus. He could not recognize objects with either hand, but retained the ability to localize stimuli applied to the palm of his left (ipsilesional) hand. He was severely disabled in ordinary activities requiring the use of his hands. The lesion corresponded to Brodmann area 1, where probabilistic anatomic, functional, and electrophysiologic studies have located one of the multiple somatosensory representations of the hand. The lesion was in a strategic position to interrupt both the processing of afferent tactile information issuing from the primary somatosensory cortex (areas 3a and 3b) and the forward higher-order processing in area 2, the secondary sensory cortex, and the contralateral area 1. The lesion also deprived the motor hand area of its afferent regulation from the sensory hand area (grasping), while leaving intact the visuomotor projections from the occipital cortex (reaching). Our patient supports Oppenheim’s proposal that the left postcentral gyrus of some individuals is dominant for stereognosis.

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