Cognitive representation of orientation: A case study

Jussi Valtonen, Daniel D. Dilks, Michael McCloskey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Although object orientation in the human brain has been discussed extensively in the literature, the nature of the underlying cognitive representation(s) remains uncertain. We investigated orientation perception in BC, a patient with bilateral occipital and parietal damage from a herpes encephalitis infection. Our results show that in addition to general inaccuracy in discriminating and reproducing line orientations, her errors take the form of left-right mirror reflections across a vertical coordinate axis. We propose that in BC, the cognitive impairment is in failing to represent the direction of tilt for line orientations. Our results suggest that there exists a level of representation in the human brain at which line orientations are represented compositionally, such that the direction of a line orientation's tilt from a vertical mental reference meridian is coded independently of the magnitude of its angular displacement. Reflection errors across a vertical axis were observed both in visual and tactile line orientation tasks, demonstrating that these errors arise at a supra-modal level of representation not restricted to vision, or, alternatively, that visual-like representations are being constructed from the tactile input.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1171-1187
Number of pages17
Issue number9
StatePublished - Oct 2008


  • Mirror images
  • Orientation
  • Perception
  • Spatial cognition
  • Vision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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