The neural substrates of drawing: A voxel-based morphometry analysis of constructional, hierarchical, and spatial representation deficits

Magdalena Chechlacz, Abigail Novick, Pia Rotshtein, Wai Ling Bickerton, Glyn W. Humphreys, Nele Demeyere

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Deficits in the ability to draw objects, despite apparently intact perception and motor abilities, are defined as constructional apraxia. Constructional deficits, often diagnosed based on performance on copying complex figures, have been reported in a range of pathologies, perhaps reflecting the contribution of several underlying factors to poor figure drawing. The current study provides a comprehensive analysis of brain–behavior relationships in drawing disorders based on data from a large cohort of subacute stroke patients (n = 358) using whole-brain voxelwise statistical analyses linked to behavioral measures from a complex figure copy task. We found that (i) overall poor performance on figure copying was associated with subcortical lesions (BG and thalamus), (ii) lateralized deficits with respect to the midline of the viewer were associated with lesions within the posterior parietal lobule, and (iii) spatial positioning errors across the entire figure were associated with lesions within visual processing areas (lingual gyrus and calcarine) and the insula. Furthermore, deficits in reproducing global aspects of form were associated with damage to the right middle temporal gyrus, whereas deficits in representing local features were linked to the left hemisphere lesions within calcarine cortex (extending into the cuneus and precuneus), the insula, and the TPJ. The current study provides strong evidence that impairments in separate cognitive mechanisms (e.g., spatial coding, attention, motor execution, and planning) linked to different brain lesions contribute to poor performance on complex figure copying tasks. The data support the argument that drawing depends on several cognitive processes operating via discrete neuronal networks and that constructional problems as well as hierarchical and spatial representation deficits contribute to poor figure copying. 

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2701-2715
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number12
StatePublished - 20 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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