Modality Specific Anomia

Whereas the term anomia has classically been associated with problems locating the names of things presented visually, there is a substantial set of cases that have been reported in the literature in which modality-specific factors are evident in accessing or producing substantives. Among the different modalities of presenting the targets are touch, taste, smell, and hearing (e.g., the sound of a bell ringing to elicit the noun "bell"). Optic aphasia, for example, nicely demonstrates that naming impairments may be specific to a particular sensory modality. In optic aphasia, the person is unable to name an object presented visually but has minimal difficulty naming that same object presented through another modality. A picture of an apple may be met with naming impairment, but once the person has touched or smelled an apple the name is readily retrieved. As is the case with grammatical-class-specific anomia, a particular lesion along the pathway either from visual association areas and the semantic representations for objects or from visual association areas and motor output areas for speech is posited to explain the phenomenon. In addition, patients have been reported for whom it is not the modality of input that results in a dissociation but, rather, the modality of output. For example, an individual may be markedly more anomic when asked to speak the name of a target than when asked to write it or vice versa.

Cases of modality-specific anomia have lead to theorizing about the extent to which there is one underlying lexicosemantic system for all modalities. Instances with dissociations among modalities suggest rather that there may be multiple systems of input in order to get to the phonological (or orthographic) shapes of words and for outputting them via speech or writing.

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