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What is posterior cortical atrophy (PCA)?

Posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) is caused by damage that builds up in the brain cells at the back of the brain. This is the part of our brain that processes information from our eyes, and allows us to make sense of what we are seeing and where things are.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of the brain cell damage in PCA. Sometimes, it is caused by other types of dementia, such as dementia with Lewy bodies.

This is why PCA is also known as ‘visual variant’ or ‘visual-spatial’ Alzheimer’s disease. It is also sometimes called Benson’s syndrome, .

You can read about other types of dementia like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, or rare types like corticobasal syndrome here.

 

Alzheimer’s disease usually affects a person’s memory first, but in PCA the first symptoms are often problems with vision and how we understand what we are seeing and where things are.

People often develop PCA between the ages of 50 and 65, but it can affect older people too. PCA is a rare form of dementia, and at the moment we can’t be sure how many people around the world are affected by it. Of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at specialist dementia clinics, around one in 10 may have PCA symptoms.

What is posterior cortical atrophy?

Find out more about the symptoms and causes of posterior cortical atrophy, and the treatments currently available.

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Alzheimer’s Research UK has a wide range of information about dementia. Order booklets or download them from our online form.

This information was updated in April 2023 and is due to be reviewed in April 2025. It was written by Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Information Services team in association with Rare Dementia Support, with input from expert and lay reviewers. Please get in touch using the contact details below if you’d like a version with references or in a different format.

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