Posterior cortical atrophy is a brain and nervous system syndrome that causes brain cells to die over time. It causes problems with eyesight and with processing visual information.

Common symptoms include trouble reading, judging distances and reaching for objects. People with the syndrome may not be able to recognize objects and familiar faces. They also may have trouble making calculations. Over time this condition may cause a decline in memory and thinking abilities, known as cognitive skills.

Posterior cortical atrophy causes the loss of brain cells in back of the brain. This is the region responsible for visual processing and spatial reasoning. This changes a person's ability to process visual and spatial information.

In more than 80% of cases, posterior cortical atrophy is due to Alzheimer's disease. However, it can be due to other neurological conditions such as Lewy body dementia or corticobasal degeneration.


Posterior cortical atrophy symptoms vary among people. Symptoms also can vary over time. They tend to gradually get worse. Common symptoms include having trouble with:

  • Reading, spelling or math.
  • Driving.
  • Getting dressed.
  • Telling the difference between objects that are moving and those that are still.
  • Judging how far away objects are.
  • Using everyday objects or tools.
  • Identifying left from right.

Other common symptoms include:

  • Anxiety.
  • Confusion.
  • Changes in behavior and personality.

Memory problems may occur later in the disease.


The most common cause of posterior cortical atrophy is a form of Alzheimer's disease that's not typical. It affects the back of the brain. Other less common causes include corticobasal degeneration, Lewy body dementia and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Researchers are looking at potential gene variations that may be related to the condition.

Risk factors

Further study is needed to determine whether the risk factors for Alzheimer's disease may play a role in posterior cortical atrophy.