What is Gerstmann's syndrome?
Gerstmann's syndrome is a cognitive impairment that results from damage to a specific area of the brain known as 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
- An inability to identify fingers (finger agnosia)
Many adults also experience aphasia, (difficulty in expressing oneself when speaking, in understanding speech, or in reading and writing).
The disorder should not be confused with Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker disease, a type of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.
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
- 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 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.
There is no cure for Gerstmann's syndrome. Treatment is symptomatic and supportive. Occupational and speech therapies may be beneficial. Calculators and word processors may help school children cope with the symptoms.
In adults, many 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.
How can I or my loved one help improve care for people with Gerstmann's syndrome?
Consider participating in a clinical trial so clinicians and scientists can learn more about Gerstmann's syndrome and related disorders. Clinical research uses human volunteers to help researchers learn more about a disorder and perhaps find better ways to safely detect, treat, or prevent disease.
All types of volunteers are needed—those who are healthy or may have an illness or disease—of all different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that study results apply to as many people as possible, and that treatments will be safe and effective for everyone who will use them.
For information about participating in clinical research visit NIH Clinical Research Trials and You. Learn about clinical trials currently looking for people with Gerstmann's syndrome at Clinicaltrials.gov.
Where can I find more information about Gerstmann's syndrome?
Information also may be available from the following resources:
Learning Disabilities Association of America
National Center for Learning Disabilities
National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
Phone: 203-744-0100 or 800-999-6673; 844-259-7178 Spanish