Multimodal alexia: Neuropsychological mechanisms and implications for treatment

Esther S. Kim, Steven Z. Rapcsak, Sarah Andersen, Pélagie M. Beeson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Letter-by-letter (LBL) reading is the phenomenon whereby individuals with acquired alexia decode words by sequential identification of component letters. In cases where letter recognition or letter naming is impaired, however, a LBL reading approach is obviated, resulting in a nearly complete inability to read, or global alexia. In some such cases, a treatment strategy wherein letter tracing is used to provide tactile and/or kinesthetic input has resulted in improved letter identification. In this study, a kinesthetic treatment approach was implemented with an individual who presented with severe alexia in the context of relatively preserved recognition of orally spelled words, and mildly impaired oral/written spelling. Eight weeks of kinesthetic treatment resulted in improved letter identification accuracy and oral reading of trained words; however, the participant remained unable to successfully decode untrained words. Further testing revealed that, in addition to the visual-verbal disconnection that resulted in impaired word reading and letter naming, her limited ability to derive benefit from the kinesthetic strategy was attributable to a disconnection that prevented access to letter names from kinesthetic input. We propose that this kinesthetic-verbal disconnection resulted from damage to the left parietal lobe and underlying white matter, a neuroanatomical feature that is not typically observed in patients with global alexia or classic LBL reading. This unfortunate combination of visual-verbal and kinesthetic-verbal disconnections demonstrated in this individual resulted in a persistent multimodal alexia syndrome that was resistant to behavioral treatment. To our knowledge, this is the first case in which the nature of this form of multimodal alexia has been fully characterized, and our findings provide guidance regarding the requisite cognitive skills and lesion profiles that are likely to be associated with a positive response to tactile/kinesthetic treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3551-3562
Number of pages12
Issue number13
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • Acquired alexia
  • Alexia with agraphia
  • Global alexia
  • Kinesthetic treatment
  • Letter-by-letter reading
  • Pure alexia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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