Will ‘face blindness’ mystery be disclosed?

Blindness is one of of the common diseases worldwide. Perhaps there is no one who has not come across persons who can not see. But, how many of us have heard about the term 'face blindness'.

Face blindness also known as prosopagnosia, is the failure to recognize the faces even those of one's own children. The condition has continued to puzzle scientists for years because brain scans of prosopagnosia patients reveal that their brain areas that are devoted to face processing are of normal size and activity level. More baffling is that those with the disorder appear to be able to recognize other objects easily.

But there is a hope now. Carnegie Mellon University researchers may provide information that could help unlock the secrets of this rare disorder.

For the study, the researchers compared six people with prosopagnosia to 17 people without the disorder.Using a new MRI technology that allows scientists to look at the communication pathways in the brains of patients, the researchers found that those with prosopagnosia had disruptions in the connectivity between brain areas devoted to face processing.The condition itself may be rare, but the findings could eventually be far-reaching. Because of the clear influence that genetic factors and brain circuitry have on the development of this condition, some experts believe that "face blindness" may be linked to other developmental disorders, such as dyslexia.

According to Cibu Thomas, lead study investigator and professor in the department of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, his team hypothesized that, though a patient can technically "see" the faces he is looking at, his brain is unable to put the various facial features together into a clear enough picture that he can recognize the person.He added,

"We hypothesized that if there's normal activation of the parts of the brain involved in face processing, maybe the face-related information that is processed in other regions are not arriving — there's some sort of disconnection.One fundamental understanding that we have about the brain is it is quite plastic and can learn things; even people with strokes who have speech difficulty can eventually learn to speak. But here is a case where it shows some amount of genetic involvement, because these patients have a lifetime experience with faces but don't ever develop the ability to recognize faces."

Marlene Behrmann, a co-author of the study and a professor in the department of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, said prosopagnosia patients are commonly mislabeled as having autism or asperger's syndrome, due to the awkward nature of many of their social interactions with people whose faces they cannot recognize. But Behrmann said the condition is completely unique from autism disorders, and often patients with "face blindness" go out of their way to develop new methods of overcoming their disorder to have comfortable social interactions.

Source: ABC News

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