What is prosopagnosia?
Prosopagnosia (also known as face blindness or facial agnosia) is a neurological disorder characterized by the inability to recognize faces. The term comes from the Greek words for “face” and “lack of knowledge.”
Depending upon the degree of impairment, some people with prosopagnosia may only have difficulty recognizing familiar faces, while others will be unable to discriminate between unknown faces. Other people may not be able to distinguish a face as being different from an object. Some people are unable to recognize their own faces.
Prosopagnosia is not related to memory dysfunction, memory loss, impaired vision, or learning disabilities. The disorder is thought to be the result of congenital influence, damage, or impairment in a fold in the brain that appears to coordinate the neural systems controlling facial perception and memory (right fusiform gyrus).
Prosopagnosia can result from stroke, traumatic brain injury (TBI), or certain neurodegenerative diseases. Some cases are congenital or present at birth, in the absence of any brain damage. Congenital prosopagnosia appears to run in families, which makes it likely to be the result of a genetic mutation or deletion. Some degree of prosopagnosia is often present in children with autism and Asperger's syndrome and may be the cause of impaired social development.
Treatment is aimed at helping individuals develop ways to compensate. Adults who have the condition as a result of stroke or brain trauma can be retrained to use other clues to identify individuals.
Prosopagnosia can be socially debilitating as individuals with the disorder often have difficulty recognizing family members and close friends. They often use other ways to identify people, such as relying on voice, clothing, or unique physical attributes.
How can I or my loved one help improve care for people with prosopagnosia?
Consider participating in a clinical trial so clinicians and scientists can learn more about prosopagnosia and related disorders. Clinical research uses human volunteers to help researchers learn more about a disorder and perhaps find better ways to safely detect, treat, or prevent disease.
All types of volunteers are needed—those who are healthy or may have an illness or disease—of all different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that study results apply to as many people as possible, and that treatments will be safe and effective for everyone who will use them.
For information about participating in clinical research visit NIH Clinical Research Trials and You. Learn about clinical trials currently looking for people with prosopagnosia at Clinicaltrials.gov.