Autotopagnosia: the inability to locate parts of the body

Although we usually talk about sensory channels that help us know our surroundings by referring to the “five senses,” the truth is that there are actually more of them.

Touch, for example, is related to our ability to perceive pain and temperature changes. But there is yet another “meaning” that we tend to ignore, and its importance is revealed in cases where a neurological disorder causes it to go away. This biological disorder is known as autotopagnosiaAnd the ability that it removes is the ability to know at all times which parts of space are occupied by parts of the body.

What is autotopagnosia?

Etymologically, the term autotopagnosia already gives clues to its meaning: it is a type of agnosia, like prosopagnosia or visual agnosia, in which the inability has to do with the possibility of knowing in which positions body parts of oneself or of another person or entity.

Thus, this neurological disorder, sometimes also called somatotopagnosia, it results in serious problems when it comes to knowing the orientation and placement of body partsor, this being the product of an organic injury in parts of the brain.

Causes of autotopagnosia

Autotopagnosia is usually associated with damage to the parietal lobe of the left cerebral hemisphere. However, knowing their causes in detail is not easy.

As in almost all neurological disorders, it is very difficult to locate an isolated cause that explains the onset of symptoms, since the nervous system (and in particular the human nervous system) is extremely complex, both structurally and in terms of operation.

In addition, cases in which autotopagnosia appears are rare, which makes the study difficult. however, yes, possible explanations have been offered on how this alteration appearsnot.

There are three main hypotheses on the causes of this disorder. The first of them conceives of autotopagnosia as the product of an injury to areas of the left posterior hemisphere related to language (it could simply be a type of anomy, which is characterized by the inability to refer to the elements by the name used to designate); the second understands this decision as an alteration of certain parts of the parietal lobe involved in the imagination of a three-dimensional model of the body; and the third characterizes it as a visuospatial problem also related to the parietal lobe.

The possibility of analyzing in depth the causes of autotopagnosia remains difficult becauseand often presents in conjunction with other neurological disorders like apraxia.

Symptoms of this neurological disorder

People with autotopagosis they have serious difficulty locating their own body parts, Another person or a drawn character. In addition, they usually exhibit symptoms of two types:

1. Semantic errors

These types of symptoms correspond to cases in which, when asked to point to a part of the body, they point to another belonging to a similar semantic category. For example, instead of pointing an arm, they point to a leg, or instead of pointing to a knee, they point to an elbow.

2. Contiguity errors

This symptom is related to the person’s inability to know exactly where a part of the body is. For example, when asked to show the chest, he shows the belly, Or when asked to point the ear, point in the direction of the neck.

It should also be noted that not all cases of autotopagnosia are the same, and that while some people are unable to know where body parts of themselves or another entity are located, others may have problems locating yours, or you may notice when you touch the area of ​​your own body where it is and what it is, for example.

Treatment of somatotopagnosia

In the case of a neurological disorder caused by injury, it is considered that symptoms cannot go away even if the marks left on the brain by the wound are irreversible. However, it is possible to work by alleviating the symptoms of the disease, by teaching the person to adopt habits that make daily life easier.

Unfortunately, to date, no pharmacological treatment has shown efficacy in these cases, so it is necessary to take care of each case in a particularly personalized way to know all the problems encountered by the patients and the possible opportunities they face. are faced. it is about making progress in their way of acting.


Autotopagnosia is a difficult neurological disorder to understand because its nature is not yet understood: it could be a language error (i.e., problems saying things by name) or visuospatial (i.e. say related to not knowing where this part of the body is located which is already known as it is called).

More research is needed to develop more effective intervention programs.

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