Prosopagnosia, also called face blindness, is an impairment in the recognition of faces. It is often accompanied by other types of recognition impairments (place recognition, car recognition, facial expression of emotion, etc.) though sometimes it appears to be restricted to facial identity.
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Research Centres and study of Prosopagnosia
Laura Schmalzl, Romina Palermo, Peter De Lissa, Christopher Sewell, Romina Palermo, Megan Willis at the Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science (MACCS), Macquarie University, Sydney. She is researching four generations of one family who are affected by congenital prosopagnosia, trying to find out which perceptual and cognitive processes break down in congenital prosopagnosia. She is also looking at whether the condition is hereditary or genetic. "Small children who have this difficulty may often be misdiagnosed with behavioural difficulties" (MACCS 2006).
Bruno Rossion and his colleagues Laboratoire de Neurophysiologie (NEFY), Université Catholique de Louvain have identified a brain-damaged prosopagnosic patient without visual object agnosia, PS, who shows "a marked deficit at representing information at the level of the eyes of the faces". They believe that this loss of ability to extract diagnostic information at the level of the upper part of the face, in particular the eye region, may be a dominant feature of acquired prosopagnosia without visual agnosia, "reflecting an destruction of what constitutes our most developped skill for processing faces" (NEFY 2007) This does not prevent people living with prosopagnosia, below, to stress diversity in experiences, difficulties and coping strategies]. This research group advocates a single-case approach of brain-damaged prosopagnosic patients, aiming at clarifying both the nature of their functional impairment(s) and the neural basis of prosopagnosia by means of neuroimaging studies of these patients.
Jim Tanaka, Department of Psychology, University of Victoria is using a particular event-related potential (ERP) as an index of face familiarity.
Daphne Maurer and Morris Moscovitch, Visual Development Lab, McMaster University and University of Toronto are investigating developmental changes involving visual capabilities, and how these change over time. They have found evdience that some capabilities are present during the first hour after birth, but that others - such as expertise in identifying faces - take more than 14 years to peak.
Ingo Kennerknecht Institute of Human Genetics, University of Muenster is looking at hereditary aspects of prosopagnosia.
Beatrice de Gelder, Laboratory for Affective and Cognitive Neuroscience, Tilburg University, is investigating conscious and unconscious face processing in normals and clinical populations, including prosopagnosia. She is particularly interested in the emotional processes inhertent to face perception.
Edward de Haan, Psychological Laboratory, Utrecht University a clinical neuropsychologist interested in fundamental neuroscience, particularly visual, auditory and somatosensory perception, memory, emotion, and consciousness.
Noam Sagiv, Centre for Cognition and Neuroimaging, Brunel University
Jeremy Tree, Cognition Research Group, School of Psychology, University of Exeter Jeremy Tree and Chris Longmore at the University of Exeter are investigating whether people with Prosopagnosia use dynamic cues (such as idiosyncratic facial movements) and characteristic facial gestures as an aid to recognising faces. The results may also shed some light on whether therapies which focus on facial motion cues may be helpful. Jeremy Tree is also interested in prosopagnosic expert performance with other classes of visually complex non-face stimuli (such as flowers, cars, breeds of animals etc.). This is discussed by Cecilia Burman, who has Prosopagnosia, in her article, "It is like identifying stones".
Sarah Bate, Cognition Research Group, Psychology Research Group, Bournemouth University - is investigating the relationship between emotion and face recognition in developmental prosopagnosia. Her work considers the role of both emotional expression and emotional reaction in face recognition, and current research is considering the influence of empathy in adults and children with autistic/behavioural disorders and congenital prosopagnosia.
Jules Davidoff, Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths University of London is interested in the way we remember colour and its influence on recognition.
Brad Duchaine Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience University College London. Special interests in the neuropsychology of Prosopagnosia. Their recent work has presented evidence that cognitive and neural mechanisms engaged in face perception are distinct from those engaged in object perception, including objects of expertise.
Robertson Cognitive NeuroPsychology Laboratory University of California, Berkeley, and their project survey are finding out that Prosopagnosia is much more common than previously thought: affecting up to 2 per cent of the population.
Nancy Kanwisher, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology are investigating the different regions of the brain that respond to faces, how responses change with experience, and the nature of the representations of faces when we glimpse them.
Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, University of Michigan dont appear to have much information on their research publicly available yet.
Marlene Behrmann, Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University is exploring the behavioral and neural mechanisms associated with Prosopagnosia. This is true for individuals who suffer from Prosopagnosia after sustaining brain damage as well as individuals who appear to hae a longstanding face processing difficulty (perhaps from birth). Also special interest in structural and functional imaging and in rehabilitation studies.
Ken Nakayama -Prosopagnosia Research Center, Harvard University is using visual psychophysics to isolate a variety of visual functions and to study them in detail, to help us understand social perception and cognition; how we represent other humans at a non-verbal level.
Martha J. Farah, Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania distinguishes between two types of recognition: holistic analysis and analysis by parts. She is researching the effects of socioeconomic adversity on children's brain development and emerging social and ethical issues in neuroscience.
Antonio Damasio, University of Southern California Antonio Damasio is Director, Brain and Creativity Institute, and Hanna Damasio is Director, Dornsife Cognitive Neuroscience Imaging Center. Their research has demonstrated that emotions play a central role in social cognition, decision-making, and consciousness. Their early work on prosopagnosia identified the neural correlates of the condition (in the ventral visual system as opposed to the dorsal), identified different types of agnosia, and showed that prosopagnosics could still respond covertly to familiar faces.
Isabel Gauthier, Department of Psychological Sciences, Vanderbilt University is investigating the role of expertise in object recognition.
Research on Prosopagnosia in Children
Yonas Visual Perception Lab: University of Minnesota The Yonas Lab has been conducting research on prosopagnosia in children, in conjunction with the aforementioned Dr. [Ken Nakayama] and Dr. Brad Duchaine, for the last three years. They are interested in working with children across the nation, and locally in Minnesota, who have been diagnosed with prosopagnosia or have difficulties recognizing faces. Their goals are to (1) study the development of face processing in children, (2) study possible interventions for prosopagnosiac children and (3) raise awareness about the disorder in children.
Finding and sharing lay experiences of Prosopagnosia
The Find a Face organisation is an international nonprofit organization committed to promoting greater awareness, education, detection, and accommodation for Children affected by Prosopagnosia.
FaceBlind, at LiveCommunity Journal. This is a community blog full of the lay experiences of people with faceblindness from all over the world.
A discussion forum for people with Prosopagnosia on Yahoo.
People with Prosopagnosia have called for...
A suite of resources to help adults and children deal with the condition. See article by Anne Mills on the website of the support organisation 'Find a Face'.
The Find a Face organisation is an international nonprofit organization committed to promoting greater awareness, education, detection, and accommodation for children affected by prosopagnosia.
Living with Prosopagnosia Resources
An excellent list has been compiled by Cecilia Burman.
Tips and advice from people with Prosopagnosia
Do not assume that the experiences and coping strategies you may read about or hear about regarding one person's impression of their manifestation of prosopagnosia will necessarily be applicable to other people with prosopagnosia. While we do share many things in common, we don't share everything in common. The relative severity with which prosopagnosia effects each one of us personally varies widely, and our resulting life experiences are necessarily affected by this variance. Do not hesitate to ask specific questions if you have any. You may very well receive the gammit of responses, but you shouldn't be surprized by this. One person's response does not make the responses from any other person less valid or less accurate. By sharing of our experiences collectively in a public forum, we hope to broaden the understanding of prosopagnosia to more people and to provide a wider knowledge base on which others can draw in their understanding of us, both as a group and as unique individuals.
What people with Prosopagnosia would like scientists and others to know
It's like identifying stones.
Prosopagnosia is more than simply a scientific anomaly. While it can be very useful to have a thorough scientific and cognitive understanding of prosopagnosia from a purely physical and experimental viewpoint, it is far more important to look at the practical side of life with prosopagnosia, including but not limited to how to live with it and how to cope with the social difficulties it may cause.
Help with the practical side of life with Prosopagnosia
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Thoughts and new research findings from academics
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Prosopagnosia Screening from Dr Sarah Bate, Psychology Research Group, Bournemouth University
Pre-Screening Demo from Berkeley
Scholarly articles on Prosopagnosia
Popular books and newspaper articles about Prosopagnosia
Face Blind a novel of suspense by Raymond Benson
When faces have no name, Carey Goldberg, Boston Globe, 14 June 2006
Have we met? Science Now, 2 June 2006
Do I know you? Living in a world without faces, New Scientist, 5 December 2006.
Er... what's your name again? Times Education Supplement, 02 February 2007
Eysenck, M (2007) Face Recognition, Chapter 7 in Psychology: An International Perspective