Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
A dissociation between the ability to recognize misoriented objects and to determine their orientation has been reported in a small number of patients with vascular lesions. In this article, we describe a 57-year-old man with probable Alzheimer's disease who shows the same dissociation. Neuro-imaging findings indicated marked hypometabolism in the posterior cortical regions, particularly the postero-superior parietal lobes. Clinically, the patient had good object recognition accompanied by severely impaired spatial abilities. The experimental investigations comprised a variety of tasks in which he identified misoriented objects, evaluated the orientation of single objects, or discriminated the orientation of simultaneously presented items. Results revealed that his object recognition was independent of orientation and was largely mediated by salient features. With respect to orientation judgements, the patient displayed a profound inability to judge the orientation of nonupright objects, but remarkably intact (though largely implicit) knowledge of the upright orientation. Strikingly, his orientation judgements were also more accurate for upside-down objects than for other orientations (i.e., 90°). We interpret these results as evidence that judgements about object orientation are facilitated when the orientation of the principal axis of the object matches that of an internal representation. We propose that the inability to determine other orientations may be due to the failure of an “axis-finding” mechanism implemented in the posterior parietal lobes, that translates between object-centered and eye-centered coordinates appropriate for guiding visual scanning.