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NINDS Gerstmann's Syndrome Information Page


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What is Gerstmann's Syndrome?

Gerstmann's syndrome is a cognitive impairment that results from damage to a specific area of the brain -- the left parietal lobe in the region of the angular gyrus. It may occur after a stroke or in association with damage to the parietal lobe. It is characterized by four primary symptoms: a writing disability (agraphia or dysgraphia), a lack of understanding of the rules for calculation or arithmetic (acalculia or dyscalculia), an inability to distinguish right from left, and an inability to identify fingers (finger agnosia). The disorder should not be confused with Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker disease, a type of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.

In addition to exhibiting the above symptoms, many adults also experience aphasia, (difficulty in expressing oneself when speaking, in understanding speech, or in reading and writing).

There are few reports of the syndrome, sometimes called developmental Gerstmann's syndrome, in children. The cause is not known. Most cases are identified when children reach school age, a time when they are challenged with writing and math exercises. Generally, children with the disorder exhibit poor handwriting and spelling skills, and difficulty with math functions, including adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. An inability to differentiate right from left and to discriminate among individual fingers may also be apparent. In addition to the four primary symptoms, many children also suffer from constructional apraxia, an inability to copy simple drawings. Frequently, there is also an impairment in reading. Children with a high level of intellectual functioning as well as those with brain damage may be affected with the disorder.

Is there any treatment?

There is no cure for Gerstmann's syndrome. Treatment is symptomatic and supportive. Occupational and speech therapies may help diminish the dysgraphia and apraxia. In addition, calculators and word processors may help school children cope with the symptoms of the disorder.

What is the prognosis?

In adults, many of the symptoms diminish over time. Although it has been suggested that in children symptoms may diminish over time, it appears likely that most children probably do not overcome their deficits, but learn to adjust to them.

What research is being done?

The NINDS supports research on disorders that result from damage to the brain such as dysgraphia. The NINDS and other components of the National Institutes of Health also support research on learning disabilities. Current research avenues focus on developing techniques to diagnose and treat learning disabilities and increase understanding of the biological basis of them.

NIH Patient Recruitment for Gerstmann's Syndrome Clinical Trials

Organizations

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Learning Disabilities Association of America
4156 Library Road
Suite 1
Pittsburgh, PA   15234-1349
info@ldaamerica.org
http://www.ldaamerica.org
Tel: 412-341-1515
Fax: 412-344-0224

National Center for Learning Disabilities
381 Park Avenue South
Suite 1401
New York, NY   10016
ncld@ncld.org
http://www.ld.org
Tel: 212-545-7510 888-575-7373
Fax: 212-545-9665

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
55 Kenosia Avenue
Danbury, CT   06810
orphan@rarediseases.org
http://www.rarediseases.org
Tel: 203-744-0100 Voice Mail 800-999-NORD (6673)
Fax: 203-798-2291

 


Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892



NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

Last updated July 2, 2008