Visual Agnosia, Second Edition

Visual Agnosia, Second Edition

By Martha J. Farah

A Bradford Book





The cognitive neuroscience of human vision draws on two kinds of evidence: functional imaging of normal subjects and the study of neurological patients with visual disorders. Martha Farah's landmark 1990 book Visual Agnosia presented the first comprehensive analysis of disorders of visual recognition within the framework of cognitive neuroscience, and remains the authoritative work on the subject. This long-awaited second edition provides a reorganized and updated review of the visual agnosias, incorporating the latest research on patients with insights from the functional neuroimaging literature. Visual agnosia refers to a multitude of different disorders and syndromes, fascinating in their own right and valuable for what they can tell us about normal human vision. Some patients cannot recognize faces but can still recognize other objects, while others retain only face recognition. Some see only one object at a time; others can see multiple objects but recognize only one at a time. Some do not consciously perceive the orientation of an object but nevertheless reach for it with perfected oriented grasp; others do not consciously recognize a face as familiar but nevertheless respond to it autonomically. Each disorder is illustrated with a clinical vignette, followed by a thorough review of the case report literature and a discussion of the theoretical implications of the disorder for cognitive neuroscience.

The second edition extends the range of disorders covered to include disorders of topographic recognition, and both general and selective disorders of semantic memory, as well as expanded coverage of face recognition impairments. Also included are a discussion of the complementary roles of imaging and patient-based research in cognitive neuroscience, and a final integrative chapter presenting the "big picture" of object recognition as illuminated by agnosia research.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262062381 208 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 48 illus.


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262562034 208 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 48 illus.


  • Martha Farah shows how a potentially impenetrable topic, visual agnosia, can be unpacked and analyzed in a captivating way. Her classic work of 15 years ago is now updated and fleshed out so thorougly that it is almost a new book. It is a must-read.

    Michael S. Gazzaniga

    Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Dartmouth College

  • The study of visual agnosia is basic to efforts to integrate cognitive and neuroscience approaches to object recognition. The Farah reeview is an excellent example of this approach.

    Michael I. Posner

    Professor of Psychology, University of Oregon

  • A superb introduction to the topic of visual deficits following brains damage. In surveying this vast literature, Farah does not merely dump a mass of contraditory data in the reader's lap, but succeeds in organizing and synthesizing the data in a sensible way. This is a nicely reasoned and well written book, and it should be an invaluable resource for cognitive neuroscientists.

    Steven Pinker


  • A fresh look at agnosia by someone who is well versed in current psychological and computational theory. Sometimes the best insights into the workings of a compex system come from studying its abilities following discrete damage. Martha Farah has given us a fascinating account of the abilitiees of a broken visual recognition system.

    Robert Desimone

    Head of the Unit of Cognitive Neurophysiology Laboratory of Neuropsychology, NIMH

  • Farah presents a lucid and scholarly overview of the visual agnosias; those fascinating and enigmatic disorders of perception that arise from focal brain damage. She examines the problem from the vantage point of a cognitive psychologist and manages to provide a clear distillate of what has historically been a complex and confusing subject.

    V.S Ramachandra

    Department of Psychology, University of California, La Jolla

  • I started reading this book expecting to be interested; I finished several hours later feeling exhilirated. Farah develops a general methodology to relate studies of brain-damaged patients to functional and computational theories, and illustrates her percepts with a masterly account of agnosia and its implications for theories of object perception. She brings order to a mass of untidy, often conflicting data, while allowing them to guide her understanding. Every page is rewarding; I was never tempted to skip a section for fear of missing an interesting observation, a new interpretation or prediction. Whether or not one agress with all her ideas, they are reliably interesting and plausible. The combination of careful description with novel and insightful interpretations within a coherent integrative framework makes this book a model for future cognititve neuroscience.

    Anne Treisman

    PH.D., F.R.S., Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley