Prosopagnosia or Face Blindness

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What is Prosopagnosia?

Prosopagnosia, which is also known as ‘face blindness’, is the inability to recognize familiar faces. There are evidence that there are particular impairments that only influence face recognition as well as stimuli recognition, such as objects, cars, and animals. Many people experience difficulty in other aspects of face processing, such as estimating one’s age or gender, or tracking eye movements or just general navigation in one’s life. An example supporting these listed claims states that prosopagnosia patients could identify objects that involves in one’s daily life. However, they could only identify their family members by conversing with them as they could recognize voices(Meadows, 1974).

Types

  1. Acquired Prosopagnosia (AP)Acquired prosopagnosia is a result of occipito-temporal lobe damage and is most commonly diagnosed in adults. Acquired prosopagnosia is further subdivided into apperceptive and associative prosopagnosia. People who are diagnosed with Apperceptive Prosopagnosia do not have the ability to differentiate familiar from unfamiliar faces. They also struggle with identifying facial emotions (Biotti, Cook & Cortex, 2016). However, they may be able to identify people from non-face clues such as their dressing, hair, skin tone or voice (Barton, Cherkasova, Press, Intrillgator & O’Connor, 2004).
  2. Associative Prosopagnosia is used to describe people with spared perceptual processes but deficits in linking early facial perception processes and the semantic information we have of people in our memories. This means that people with this form of prosopagnosia may be able to make sense of facial information, but may not be able to link any other information about them such as their name and age (Gainotti & Marra, 2011).

  3. Congenital Prosopagnosia (CP)
  4. It is also known as Developmental Prosopagnosia. This form of prosopagnosia occurs in one’s early childhood ,lasting for a lifetime and in the presence of intact and sensory functioning. CP patients can acknowledge a face but are unable to recognise that face. Unlike AP, it is possible for CP to go undetected as the person does not have a basis of comparison for normal face processing skills (Behrmann & Avidan, 2005). Lastly, people with CP have a lifetime to adapt to this deficit so therefore, they are better at using features such as hairline or eyebrows for identification.

Signs and Symptoms

People who suffer from prosopagnosia display several signs and symptoms. The list of them are as below:

  • They are unable to recognize familiar people, which include family members
  • They are shy
  • They have a hard time in making friends
  • They seem to be introverts in school, but they are confident when they are at home.

Causes

Previously, it was thought that very few people experience prosopagnosia. The condition has traditionally been studied in individuals who acquire the disorder following neurological damage (typically from stroke or head injury), and a handful of case studies were reported in the literature in the 20th century. However, it has recently become clear that many more people have prosopagnosia without experiencing neurological damage. This form of the disorder is commonly referred to as “developmental” or “congenital” prosopagnosia, and these people simply fail to develop normal face processing abilities despite normal intellectual and perceptual functions. People with developmental prosopagnosia seem to have had face recognition difficulties for most of their lives, and perhaps even since birth. Recent evidence suggests there may be a genetic contribution to the condition, and many people report at least one first-degree relative who also experiences face recognition difficulties.

Effects

Some people cope well with their face recognition difficulties, and even develop elaborate compensatory mechanisms to help them function effectively in everyday life. For others, however, the condition has a much greater impact on daily functioning. Some people avoid social interactions, experience problems with interpersonal relationships or damage to their career, and even report episodes of depression. In extreme cases, people with prosopagnosia develop social anxiety disorder, characterized by fear and avoidance of social situations that may cause embarrassment.

Treatment

There is no fixed treatment The focus of any treatment should be to help the individual with prosopagnosia develop compensatory strategies. Adults who have the condition as a result of stroke or brain trauma can be retrained to use other clues to identify individuals.