Thursday, March 15, 2012

Prosopagnosia - Face Blidness

Prosopagnosia is a disorder of face perception where the ability to recognize faces is impaired, while the ability to recognize other objects may be relatively intact.

The term originally referred to a condition following acute brain damage, but a congenital form of the disorder has been proposed, which may be inherited by about 2.5% of the population.

The specific brain area usually associated with prosopagnosia is the fusiform gyrus.

Few successful therapies have so far been developed for affected people, although individuals often learn to use 'piecemeal' or 'feature by feature' recognition strategies.

This may involve secondary clues such as clothing, gait, hair colour, body shape, and voice. Because the face seems to function as an important identifying feature in memory, it can also be difficult for people with this condition to keep track of information about people, and socialize normally with others.

Some also use the term prosophenosia, which refers to the inability to recognize faces following extensive damage of both occipital and temporal lobes.

Children with Prosopagnosia
Developmental prosopagnosia can be a difficult thing for a child to both understand and cope with. Many adults with developmental prosopagnosia report for a long time they had no idea that they had a deficit in face processing, unaware that others could distinguish people solely on facial differences.

Children with prosopagnosia can be hard to find. They may just appear to be very shy or slightly odd due to their inabilities to recognise faces.

Children with prosopagnosia may have a hard time making friends, as they may not recognize their classmates. They often make friends with children with other distinguishing features.

Children with prosopagnosia may also have difficulties following the plots of television shows and movies, as they have trouble recognizing the different characters.

They tend to gravitate towards cartoons, where the characters always wear the same thing and have other distinguishing features.

Prosopagnosiac children may also have a hard time telling family members apart or recognizing people out of context (i.e. the teacher in a grocery store).

Additionally, those children with prosopagnosia can have a difficult time with the public school system, as many school professionals are not well versed in prosopagnosia, if they are aware of the disorder at all.

Resources to help parents and professionals cope with prosopagnosia in children are also being developed, such as Understanding Facial Recognition Disorders in Children by Nancy L. Mindick

Oliver Sacks, famous neuroscientist, author of many books including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat; although he knew what prosopagnosia was and had studied it, he did not realise he had it until people became shocked that he confused one of his brothers with the other and then, discussing it with family members, learned that a number of them had similar difficulties with face.

Dame Jane Goodall, British primatologist, ethologist, and anthropologist, best known for her 45-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees.

Listen to Jane describe her condition and how it's affected her life:

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