Saygin, A.P., Leech, R., & Dick, F. (2010). Nonverbal auditory agnosia with lesion to Wernicke’s area. Neuropsychologia, 48, 107-113. (Download)
We report the case of patient M, who suffered unilateral left posterior temporal and parietal damage, brain regions typically associated with language processing. Language function largely recovered since the infarct, with no measurable speech comprehension impairments. However, the patient exhibited a severe impairment in nonverbal auditory comprehension. We carried out extensive audiological and behavioral testing in order to characterize M’s unusual neuropsychological profile. We also examined the patient’s and controls’ neural responses to verbal and nonverbal auditory stimuli using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).Weverified that the patient exhibited persistent and severe auditory agnosia for nonverbal sounds in the absence of verbal comprehension deficits or peripheral hearing problems. Acoustical analyses suggested that his residual processing of a minority of environmental sounds might rely on his speech processing abilities. In the patient’s brain, contralateral (right) temporal cortex as well as perilesional (left) anterior temporal cortex were strongly responsive to verbal, but not to nonverbal sounds, a pattern that stands in marked contrast to the controls’ data. This substantial reorganization of auditory processing likely supported the recovery of M’s speech processing.