LE, a person who lost her 'mind's eye'

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We report the case of LE, a sculptress with an autoimmune disorder, systemic lupus erythematosus, that caused her to have an impaired visual short-term memory together with image generation problems. This dramatically affected her sculpting style. LE was a puzzle both clinically and scientifically. Clinically, her problems were nearly missed because she scored within the normal range on tests of visuo-spatial immediate memory. However, on a test of immediate visual pattern memory, i.e. with much less of a spatial component, LE's performance was severely compromised, illustrating a dissociation between spatial span and pattern span. Scientifically, she was a puzzle because she was able to compensate well for her difficulties and use alternative routes to solve her difficulties, e.g. kinaesthetic solutions were employed to answer questions depending on visual imagery This clouded the picture with regard to her performance on visual imagery tasks. We discuss the results in terms of Baddeley and Hitch's working memory model (Working memory, 1974, Academic Press) and the disruption to everyday life caused by visual short-term memory difficulties. We also use Farah's classification system (Cognition 1984; 18: 245-72) of the ways visual imagery can break down, and conclude that LE has problems with the generation of images and/or of transferring these from the long-term store to the visual buffer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-127
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1999



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