Frontal-executive constructional apraxia: When delayed recall is better than copying

Academic Article


  • In assessments of visuospatial function and memory, patients are often required to copy a figure and later to reproduce that figure from memory. Whereas most people perform better on a copying task than when drawing from memory, in this study we describe an unusual pattern of performance in which patients are better at drawing from memory than copying. Consecutive patients in a neurocognitive disorders clinic were given a battery of clinical cognitive tests that included copying a figure of intersecting pentagons and then drawing the figure from memory. Patterns of drawing performance at the two time points were compared to the profile of other cognitive deficits. Results: A subgroup of four patients with frontal dysfunction showed marked improvement in drawings at a delay compared to copying. Prior studies have indicated that most patients have declines in drawing performance at a delay. The unusual pattern of better performance at a delay compared to an initial copy occurred in patients with frontal dysfunction. These patients' visuoconstructive deficit and subsequent improvement could be related to either a failure to disengage when a model is present, to memory consolidation with increased reliance on top-down processing in the delay condition, or to relative preservation of global versus local aspects of a stimulus in memory. The addition of a task to assess drawing after a delay to a standard clinical screening battery such as the Mini-Mental Status Examination (MMSE) provides the opportunity to evaluate this phenomenon that may be indicative of frontal-executive dysfunction. The work of Gregory P. Crucian and Kenneth M. Heilman was authored as part of their official duties as Employees of the United States Government and is therefore a work of the United States Government. In accordance with 17 USC. 105, no copyright protection is available for such works under US Law. Heidi L. Roth and Russell M. Bauer hereby waive their right to assert copyright, but not their right to be named as co-authors in the article.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • Neurocase  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Roth HL; Bauer RM; Crucian GP; Heilman KM
  • Start Page

  • 283
  • End Page

  • 295
  • Volume

  • 20
  • Issue

  • 3