Things to know about face blindness (prosopagnosia)
Face blindness is also called prosopagnosia. It is a brain disorder that is characterized by the inability to recognize or differentiate between faces of people. The severity of this condition varies; some may have difficulty differentiating between faces of strangers or newly acquainted people, whereas others may struggle with recognizing even familiar faces. In some severe cases, they may not be able to recognize their own face.
Prosopagnosia may be seen in children with autistic spectrum disorders or after a stroke in adults.
People with face blindness have difficulty with the following:
- Recognizing faces of strangers and faces of family and friends
- Identifying similarities and differences between the facial features of people
- Detecting emotional changes in a set of faces
- Assessing information such as age or gender from a set of faces
What are the complications of face blindness?
Face blindness can lead to the following complications:
- Social anxiety
- Social withdrawal
- Lack of confidence
- Difficulty building and maintaining relationships
- Difficulty following characters in movies or TV shows
What causes face blindness?
Researchers believe that face blindness may be caused by abnormalities or damage to a fold in the brain called the right fusiform gyrus. The right fusiform gyrus plays an important role in the coordination of the neural systems that are responsible for facial memory and perception.
How is face blindness diagnosed?
The diagnosis of face blindness is mainly clinical. The neurologist may advise some tests to confirm the diagnosis such as
- the Benton Facial Recognition Test (BFRT) and
- Warrington Recognition Memory of Faces (RMF).
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain can help diagnose areas of damage in the brain.
How is face blindness treated?
There is no cure for face blindness. Treatment of face blindness is mainly supportive and developing coping mechanisms to help manage the condition better. Some may need psychological support and medication to manage depression and anxiety that may be associated with the condition.
Some coping mechanisms include:
- Patients can learn to focus on other visual or verbal characteristics of a person, such as the color and pattern of the hair, their height, or their voice.
- Patients can observe certain mannerisms of people such as walking style.
Coping mechanisms for children with face blindness:
- Ask the child to wait for the parents or caregiver to wave or hold a sign when the child is being picked up or when in a crowd.
- Advising children not to approach anybody in a crowd without any visual clues.
- Teach the child to study and remember features such as the hair type or color, the height of a person, and their voice.
- Teach the child to observe people’s mannerisms.
- Educating family, friends, teachers, caregivers, and anyone in close association with the child about the condition.
- Parents can write their phone number on the child’s hand or pin it to their shirt, in case the child gets lost.
- Patiently educate the child about the condition. A professional child psychologist can help the child cope with the condition and the associated social and psychological complications.
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