Sunday, August 5, 2007

Is That My Brother? Perceptual and Neurobiological Factors in Face Blindness

Face blindness (technically known as prosopagnosia) is a condition in which people with otherwise normal vision cannot discriminate one ... all » face from another. They may not be able to pick out their own husband or children in a crowded room or even themselves in a mirror. One woman reported she once had to crinkle her face in a crowded rest room to discriminate herself from others in the mirror. This problem can occur through injury to particular areas within the brain (either through head trauma, stoke or surgery), but it can also occur developmentally. In the latter case, the brain appears completely normal, yet developmental prosopagnosics (DP) have never learned to accurately discriminate faces.

There is a large scientific body of work on face perception published in the psychological, social and neurobiological literature, and I will highlight some of the more important findings. I will then discuss work from my own laboratory on perceptual processing of faces; emphasizing training methods we have developed to help individuals with DP identify faces, sometimes for the first time in their lives. This discussion will be complemented by inclusion of documented neurobiological and cognitive changes that accompany the emergence of face recognition abilities.

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