The Architect Who Lost the Ability to Imagine: The Cerebral Basis of Visual Imagery
While the loss of mental imagery following brain lesions was first described more than a century ago, the key cerebral areas involved remain elusive. Here we report neuropsychological data from an architect (PL518) who lost his ability for visual imagery following a bilateral posterior cerebral artery (PCA) stroke. We compare his profile to three other patients with bilateral PCA stroke and another architect with a large PCA lesion confined to the right hemisphere. We also compare structural images of their lesions, aiming to delineate cerebral areas selectively lesioned in acquired aphantasia. When comparing the neuropsychological profile and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for the aphantasic architect PL518 to patients with either a comparable background (an architect) or bilateral PCA lesions, we find: (1) there is a large overlap of cognitive deficits between patients, with the very notable exception of aphantasia which only occurs in PL518, and (2) there is large overlap of the patients’ lesions. The only areas of selective lesion in PL518 is a small patch in the left fusiform gyrus as well as part of the right lingual gyrus. We suggest that these areas, and perhaps in particular the region in the left fusiform gyrus, play an important role in the cerebral network involved in visual imagery.