Prosopagnosia is a neurological disorder that is described as, “an inability to recognize faces”(Goldstein, 2011.) It is also known as face blindness or facial agnosia. There are various degrees of impairment, that range mildly from an inability to recognize a familiar face to more severe by not being able to distinguish the difference between a face and an object(http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/prosopagnosia/Prosopagnosia.htm, 2007.) Brad Pitt believes he might have some form of this disorder, but is undiagnosed at this time.
Prosopagnosia is thought to be the result of people who have abnormalities, damage, or impairment to their temporal lobe on the lower right side of the brain in a fold called the fusiform gyrus. The fusiform gyrus coordinates with neural systems that control facial perception and memory. This disorder is thought to be the result of stroke, traumatic brain injury, or a neurodegenerative disease. At times this can be congenital, present without brain damage since birth. Congenital prosopagnosia appears to run in families. Children with Autism often have some degree of prosopagnosia, which may explain their impaired social development(http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/prosopagnosia/Prosopagnosia.htm, 2007.)
Unless prosopagnosia is causing a person to not recognize themselves in the mirror, many people go undiagnosed into adulthood without realizing there is a real disorder present. A woman named Ronna Benjamin didn’t think much of it until she ran into situations, such as previously having a woman over for dinner with her husband and not recognizing her at a later date in the grocery store. Her name sounded familiar, but she couldn’t match the face. Other times, she would meet people multiple times, yet still didn’t recognize them. Brad Pitt also lacks the ability to recognition people he has previously met and believes he could suffer from this disease as well, although, he is undiagnosed(Benjamin, 2014.)
Prosopagnosia can be socially detrimental. It can cause individuals to have difficulty remembering family and close friends. To treat this disorder, individuals must develop compensatory strategies, such as through others voices, clothing, or unique physical attributes. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) conducts research to learn more about prosopagnosia. Most of the research is focused on finding better ways to prevent, treat, and ultimately cure this disorder. Prosopagnosia Research Centers at Dartmouth College, Harvard University and University College London are conducting research to learn more about the causes and treatment of prosopagnosia. They also provide a facial recognition test through www.faceblind.org(Benjamin, 2014.)
Children with congenital prosopagnosia are born with this disability and have never had a time in their lives they could recognize faces. With greater awareness of autism, and the autism spectrum disorders, which involve communication impairments such as prosopagnosia, it’s likely to make the disorder less overlooked in the future. With greater overall awareness, the Ronna Benjamin’s and Brad Pitt’s of the world may learn earlier on how to more effectively live their lives(http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/prosopagnosia/Prosopagnosia.htm, 2007.)
Cognitive Psychology Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience. Goldstein, E. Bruce. 2011. Third Edition. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/prosopagnosia/Prosopagnosia.htm. NONDS Prosopagnosis Information Page. 2007.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ronna-benjamin/prosopagnosia_b_4255407.html. Ronna Benjamin. 2014.