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UNLABELLED: Posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) is a rare focal neurodegenerative syndrome characterized by progressive visuoperceptual and visuospatial deficits, most often due to atypical Alzheimer's disease (AD). We applied insights from basic visual neuroscience to analyze 3D shape perception in humans affected by PCA. Thirteen PCA patients and 30 matched healthy controls participated, together with two patient control groups with diffuse Lewy body dementia (DLBD) and an amnestic-dominant phenotype of AD, respectively. The hierarchical study design consisted of 3D shape processing for 4 cues (shading, motion, texture, and binocular disparity) with corresponding 2D and elementary feature extraction control conditions. PCA and DLBD exhibited severe 3D shape-processing deficits and AD to a lesser degree. In PCA, deficient 3D shape-from-shading was associated with volume loss in the right posterior inferior temporal cortex. This region coincided with a region of functional activation during 3D shape-from-shading in healthy controls. In PCA patients who performed the same fMRI paradigm, response amplitude during 3D shape-from-shading was reduced in this region. Gray matter volume in this region also correlated with 3D shape-from-shading in AD. 3D shape-from-disparity in PCA was associated with volume loss slightly more anteriorly in posterior inferior temporal cortex as well as in ventral premotor cortex. The findings in right posterior inferior temporal cortex and right premotor cortex are consistent with neurophysiologically based models of the functional anatomy of 3D shape processing. However, in DLBD, 3D shape deficits rely on mechanisms distinct from inferior temporal structural integrity. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) is a neurodegenerative syndrome characterized by progressive visuoperceptual dysfunction and most often an atypical presentation of Alzheimer's disease (AD) affecting the ventral and dorsal visual streams rather than the medial temporal system. We applied insights from fundamental visual neuroscience to analyze 3D shape perception in PCA. 3D shape-processing deficits were affected beyond what could be accounted for by lower-order processing deficits. For shading and disparity, this was related to volume loss in regions previously implicated in 3D shape processing in the intact human and nonhuman primate brain. Typical amnestic-dominant AD patients also exhibited 3D shape deficits. Advanced visual neuroscience provides insight into the pathogenesis of PCA that also bears relevance for vision in typical AD.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurosci

Publication Date





12673 - 12692


Alzheimer's disease, Lewy body, depth perception, fMRI, voxel-based morphometry, Aged, Agnosia, Alzheimer Disease, Atrophy, Blindness, Brain Mapping, Cerebral Cortex, Disease Progression, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Form Perception, Humans, Lewy Body Disease, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Middle Aged, Motion Perception, Motor Cortex, Neurodegenerative Diseases, Neuropsychological Tests, Organ Size, Positron-Emission Tomography, Temporal Lobe