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No Pointing

May 15, 2006

We report on a rare condition that makes people "pointless."


Problems with pointing. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

It’s rude for anyone to point; but for some people, it’s impossible. Brain researcher Laurent Cleret and a team of researchers from INSERM in France are studying a bizarre condition, generally triggered by a stroke.

When I ask them, point to my nose, they cannot. They just point to their own body parts, their own nose. But they understand that there is a mistake, but they cannot do it anyway.

Strangely, they can point to objects on other people, like clothes and glasses, and to photos of people. In many cases, this is the patients’ only symptom. Cleret says this indicates that the brain has a special part devoted to recognizing and communicating with living people—a part that in these patients is damaged. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.