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Prosopagnosia

What is Prosopagnosia ?

Prosopagnosia is a disorder that involves face perception where the word prosopagnosia literally means not knowing face. Agnosia means impaired recognition, while prosopon means face. Others even refer this condition as face blindness, a disease process that involves impairment in face recognition.


The condition basically is defined as the inability of the affected person to recognize faces, even though one is acquainted with, but still has an intact memory of recognizing other objects. As what research says, the condition is believed to be caused by brain damage or from a congenital disorder. Reports show that the condition can be inherited; at least 2.5% of the total population has been affected.

According to history, the condition has been reported first back in the year 1947. Bodamer, the person who first recognized and named the condition, has reportedly found the condition in two individuals which is very distinct to the simple condition agnosia. As to that observation, he reported the condition as prosopagnosia which is now known to the public.

Acquired prosopagnosia

Acquired prosopagnosia is a condition where an injury has incurred to a person’s brain. Incidents such as head injury, cerebrovascular accident or stroke, or other neurodegenerative diseases can cause prosopagnosia. Before any injury has occurred, the person involved has clear face recognition. But once the injury has greatly damaged the person’s brain, prosopagnosia can result.

Those affected of the condition have difficulty recognizing various pictures of people’s faces even though they have encountered them beforehand. But those with acquired prosopagnosia can identify which from the group of pictures are from the same race and age.

Developmental prosopagnosia

The condition is believed to be present from childhood. Because of this, developmental prosopagnosia is noted as a type of the condition. The condition is also considered as a lifelong disorder. The said type of prosopagnosia is stated to be from an inherited gene. Genetic link to this condition has been found by German researchers in the year 2005.

The result of their study showed that the individuals involved with prosopagnosia ran in 7 families. Another study showed that children who were born with autism and Asperger syndrome also have developmental prosopagnosia. The children would manifest difficulty or inability to recognize faces as what most other people do.

Accordingly, this condition is subdivided in two categories:

  • There are patients who have impaired estimations of the third party’s age.
  • There are patients who have inability to fully recognize the face of another person.

Prosopagnosia Symptoms & signs

Prosopagnosia as discussed is a condition that involves inability to recognize faces. This condition is also related to the inability of a person or another from remembering the names of other people. The condition can be identified as prosopagnosia once the affected have difficulty recognizing the face a person that he or she is acquainted with or truly familiar with. Face recognition becomes a pain to them that they are unable to identify the owner or name of the person.

It has also been observed that those affected with prosopagnosia has difficulty in following track of a television show or a movie, just because they couldn’t recognize readily the characters’ faces. Others stated that the condition is also accompanied by short-term memory loss or defect that is a sign of neurological disorder.

Prosopagnosia Causes

There are a lot of predisposing and precipitating factors for prosopagnosia. It has been noted that the following causes the said condition:

  • Brain injury or damage
  • Trauma
  • Stoke or cerebrovascular accident
  • Neurodegenerative disorders

The affected would complain or describe that he couldn’t recognize the face of a person even though the other party is fully aware that they are acquainted or have known each other. Those with developmental prosopagnosia, they would suffer from inability to recognize faces easily in an early age. As time takes them, they would realize that their recognition skills are not of the same level as with those people surrounding him.

Prosopagnosia Diagnosis (Test)

Screening for prosopagnosia is not an easy task, as what most doctors would say. Because of this, a specific tool in the diagnosis for prosopagnosia was developed, called Cambridge Face Memory Test. This is a test that is much reliable and can effectively test for a person’s ability to recognize faces. There was previous a test called Benton which also aims in testing the person for face recognition problems.

The difference between the two tests is that the Cambridge Face Memory test uses faces alone; without hair, ears or neck. While Benton uses images of faces with hair, ears and neck making the test provide results as false-negative. But the Cambridge Face Memory test is not considered the gold standard of prosopagnosia since the brain is a very complex part of a person’s body, which can alter its way of functioning. According to reports, the test is not widely used for it’s still in the process of making it a good and viable test for prosopagnosia.

Other tests such as the EEG and fMRI can be of health in the diagnosis of the condition, most especially the developmental prosopagnosia.

Prosopagnosia Risk factors

Those at risk of this condition are the people who have a family history of prosopagnosia. Those with first degree family members who suffer from prosopagnosia are most likely to develop such condition. It has been reported that children of a person with prosopagnosia are at risk of the condition. Other risk factors include the following:

  • People who suffered from brain injury.
  • People who have had stroke.
  • Those who have neurodegenerative disorders are also at risk of developing prosopagnosia.

Prosopagnosia Treatment

The main goal of the treatment of prosopagnosia includes helping the affected to practice ways in compensation of recognizing faces. There is no direct treatment for the condition and has no definite cure. There are coping strategies that could assist the affected. Here are some of the ways in order to assist a client in overcoming the disease process:

  • Provide clues to client as he or she struggles to recognize a face. One can accustom the patient with the other party’s voice, style of hair and clothes.
  • Support client and assist them as always. There is a clear possibility that the client would be withdrawn from others socially because of their problem.

Research is still on the works for prosopagnosia. This condition which is starting to be recognized has taken toll to the affected that is why many are asking for answers regarding the condition. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke are now conducting a research in light to prosopagnosia.

Prosopagnosia Prevention

Prosopagnosia cannot be prevented once it’s developmental. An inherited gene cannot be taken away from a person, leading us to conclude that prevention is a far solution of the problem. However, since the condition, prosopagnosia, is quite linked to stroke, brain injury, and other neurodegenerative disorders, taking care of one’s health is a must.

One can avoid stroke by practicing a healthy lifestyle, healthy diet and healthy living. Once one has been diagnosed with hypertension, we can avoid cerebrovascular accident by taking the prescribed medications that the doctor has provided and recommended. Seeking medical help once brain injury or trauma has been suspected is a must. We cannot just take for granted those small things that have placed harm on our body.

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