Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Although perseveration—the inappropriate repetition of previous responses—is quite common among patients with neurological damage, relatively few detailed computational accounts of its various forms have been put forth. A particularly well-documented variety involves the pattern of errors made by “optic aphasic” patients, who have a selective deficit in naming visually presented objects. Based on our previous work in modeling impaired reading via meaning in deep dyslexia, we develop a connectionist simulation of visual object naming. The major extension in the present work is the incorporation of short-term correlational weights that bias the network towards reproducing patterns of activity that have occurred on recently preceding trials. Under damage, the network replicates the complex semantic and perseverative effects found in the optic aphasic error pattern. Further analysis reveals that the perseverative effects are strongest when the lesions are near or within semantics, and are relatively mild when the preceding object evokes no response. Like optic aphasics, the network produces predominantly semantic rather than visual errors because, in contrast to reading, there is some structure in the mapping from visual to semantic representations for objects. Viewed together with the dyslexia simulations, the replication of complex empirical phenomena concerning impaired visual comprehension based on a small set of general connectionist principles strongly suggests that these principles provide important insights into the nature of semantic processing of visual information and its breakdown following brain damage.