Integration of tactile input across fingers in a patient with finger agnosia.
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Finger agnosia has been described as an inability to explicitly individuate between the fingers, which is possibly due to fused neural representations of these fingers. Hence, are patients with finger agnosia unable to keep tactile information perceived over several fingers separate? Here, we tested a finger agnosic patient (GO) on two tasks that measured the ability to keep tactile information simultaneously perceived by individual fingers separate. In experiment 1 GO performed a haptic search task, in which a target (the absence of a protruded line) needed to be identified among distracters (protruded lines). The lines were presented simultaneously to the fingertips of both hands. Similarly to the controls, her reaction time decreased when her fingers were aligned as compared to when her fingers were stretched and in an unaligned position. This suggests that she can keep tactile input from different fingers separate. In experiment two, GO was required to judge the position of a target tactile stimulus to the index finger, relatively to a reference tactile stimulus to the middle finger, both in fingers uncrossed and crossed position. GO was able to indicate the relative position of the target stimulus as well as healthy controls, which indicates that she was able to keep tactile information perceived by two neighbouring fingers separate. Interestingly, GO performed better as compared to the healthy controls in the finger crossed condition. Together, these results suggest the GO is able to implicitly distinguish between tactile information perceived by multiple fingers. We therefore conclude that finger agnosia is not caused by minor disruptions of low-level somatosensory processing. These findings further underpin the idea of a selective impaired higher order body representation restricted to the fingers as underlying cause of finger agnosia.