Anosognosia for hemiplegia (AHP) is a complex syndrome whose neural correlates are still under investigation. One hypothesis, mainly based on lesion mapping studies, is that AHP reflects a breakdown of neural systems of the right hemisphere involved in motor function. However, more recent theories have suggested that AHP may represent a disorder of cognitive systems involved in belief updating, self-referential or body processing. Two recent studies, using a method to estimate the degree of white matter disconnection from lesions, have indeed shown that patients with AHP suffer from damage of several long-range white matter pathways in association cortex. Here, we use a similar indirect disconnection approach to study a group of patients with motor deficits without anosognosia (hemiparesis or hemiplegia, HP, n = 35), or motor deficits with AHP (n = 28). The HP lesions came from a database of stroke patients, while cases of AHP were selected from the published literature. Lesions were traced into an atlas from illustrations of the publications using a standard method. There was no region in the brain that was more damaged in AHP than HP. In terms of structural connectivity, AHP patients had a similar pattern of disconnection of motor pathways to HP patients. However, AHP patients also showed significant disconnection of the right temporo-parietal junction, right insula, right lateral and medial prefrontal cortex. These associative cortical regions were connected through several white matter tracts, including superior longitudinal fasciculus III, arcuate, fronto-insular, frontal inferior longitudinal, and frontal aslant. These tracts connected regions of different cognitive networks: default, ventral attention, and cingulo-opercular. These results were not controlled for clinical variables as concomitant symptoms and other disorders of body representation were not always available for co-variate analysis. In conclusion, we confirm recent studies of disconnection demonstrating that AHP is not limited to dysfunction of motor systems, but involves a much wider set of large-scale cortical networks.
- structural disconnection