Facial Blindness

A rare brain syndrome, prosopagnosia or "facial blindness," is notable because of its highly specific symptom: inability to recognize faces. Apparently it is caused by damage to the area between the occipital and parietal lobes on both sides of the brain.

Cole and Perez-Cruet (1964) describe the symptoms of a human with prosopagnosia:

What is "prosopagnosia"?

The patient was presented with a single picture of himself and asked to identify it. He thought that it "possibly" was himself but was uncertain. He was then handed a picture of the examiner and though we had spent many hours together and were now face to face with the picture in front of him he was unable to identify the picture....At the end of the test session he was again presented with a picture of himself and asked, "Have you ever seen this fellow?" He replied, "Hmmm, well down through the chin there's a groove, but I can't say who it is." (p.47)

Researcher Mike Takamura of Harvard University is a prosopagnosia specialist. He reports that about 140 cases have been documented. For an extended discussion of the syndrome with many interesting examples, see his article on prosopagnosia about a quarter way down a lengthy web page which is the Spring 1996 edition of The Harvard Brain:


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