What is it?
Prosopagnosia, also known as face blindnesss, is a neurological disorder in which the afflicted individuals are unable to recognize faces. This inhibitory disability is often accompanied by the inability to recognize facial emotions, places, and personal belongings.
Prosopagnosia can result from either a birth defect or a number of other neurological events including strokes, brain injury, or neurodegenerative diseases. It is thought to affect the right fusiform gyrus, an area of the brain associated with associations between face perception and memory. The problem is not that the individuals cannot see the faces (meaning that the problem is not a visual one) nor is it solely a memory problem, for prosopagnosiacs experience no other associated memory disabilities. Therefore, the disconnect lies somewhere between when the brain recognizes facial features and when it attempts to store that information for later use.
I've never heard of this, so it's probably rare, right?
Well, there are two types of Prosopagnosia: onset and developmental. Due to the fact that onset occurs as a result of traumatic neurological impact events, it is more rare than its alternative: developmental. The acquisition of genetically acquired face blindness is extremely common, in fact, a child with a parent (who has Prosopagnosia) has a 50% chance in developing the disease.
- Failure to recognize immediate family members and close friends
- Apparent trouble following the storyline for series of television shows and movies
- Unable to recognize self in mirror
Secondary Associations and Proposed Treatments
As many debilitating diseases, face blindness typically results in a social disconnect between the affected and their social surroundings. There are significant findings that individuals who suffer from Prosopagnosia subsequently deal with social anxiety. Although there is no current treatment for facial blindness, afflicted individuals can be taught to identify important individuals in their life through other modes of recognition (i.e. body shapes, gaits, voice, etc.) in order to obtain the same level of familiarity with their peers and family as is experienced by those of us who do not suffer from such a neurological inhibition.
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