A baby playing with her reflection

A baby playing with her reflection

If you’ve ever seen the Disney movie Mulan, you most likely remember the iconic scene where she ran home after publicly embarrassing herself and her family because of her ordeal with the Matchmaker. During the scene Mulan gazes at her reflection in her family’s lake and questions “Who is the girl I see staring straight back at me? Why is my reflection someone I don’t know?” (Wilder & Zippel, 1998).  We know that Mulan was only speaking metaphorically but there are many people in world who are unable to recognize their own reflections. Some of these people may be suffering from severe prosopagnosia. People with prosopagnosia have suffered damage to the non-auditory part of their temporal lobe  (Goldstein, 2011) but due to the localization of function, damage to other parts of the brain will have various effects on us. I find it so interesting that something so small (compared to the rest of your body) has almost complete control over the way your body functions.

People with prosopagnosia know what faces are, can tell you the characteristics of a face, can recognize voices, but they cannot recognize who the face belongs to. Imagine having a relative who looked at you and couldn’t recognize who you were. When I first heard of prosopagnosia I instantly thought of dementia. In fact, I wondered if it was considered a form of dementia. Unfortunately for me, I found no evidence or articles that supported that idea.  A very popular form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. People with the disease also may have difficulty recognizing faces. However, this is usually due to the deterioration of their memory. This basically means that a person with prosopagnosia may not recognize a person’s face but they will remember other things about the person. A person with Alzheimer’s may recognize a face and then forget who the person is, and then remember again a later time (or not if their memory reaches a certain degenerative point). However, even with those differences apparently there is a rare possibility that someone can have Alzheimer’s and prosopagnosia at the same time (Procopio, 2015).

There are many different things that can happen to you if damage your brain. Depending on the part of your brain that you injure you may impact your sight, hearing, memory, or a number of other things.  Prosopagnosia is one of the many conditions that you may suffer from if you injure your brain. And although it is a really rough condition to live with, people can train themselves to remember key things about their friends and family, such as height and hair color, in order to make their lives a little easier.

2 thoughts on “Reflections

  1. Helene Therese Aardema

    I would like to complement your blog post by adding to my blog comment regarding (1) facial recognition (perception) as it applies to victims of Alzheimer’s disease vs. victims of prosopagnosia and (2) acquired vs. developmental prosopagnosia.

    In terms of Alzheimer’s disease, the right temporal lobe deteriorates; therefore, in terms of visual coding for long term memory, those afflicted with Alzheimer’s cannot recognize family members based on their face or appearance. (Alzheimer’s Society 2014) (Goldstein, Bruce E. 2011) To your point, damage to the non-auditory temporal lobe can result in prosopagnosia. The fusiform gyrus, which is responsible for facial perception, is part of the temporal lobe. (Norton, Elizabeth 2012)

    As you stated, traumatic brain injury can result in acquired prosopagnosia; however, according to Harvard researchers, those cases are better documented than developmental prosopagnosia, which “may be more common.” It is referred to as genetic a condition that is apparently not associated with brain injury. In addition, many individuals afflicted with developmental prosopagnosia are not aware of their inability to recognize faces until adolescence or early adulthood because “their impairment is not apparent to them.” (Bradt, Steve 2006) Those with acquired prosopagnosia have an awareness of their affliction.

    As a side note, Macquarie University in Australia is asking those afflicted with prosopagnosia to consider participating in its research program.

    Web Publications

    “Face Blindness disorder may not be so rare.” Harvard University Gazette Archives. Copyright 2007. Web 18 July 2016.

    “Prosopagnosia Research.” Macquarie University. Department of Cognitive Sciences. Copyright Macquarie University. Web 18 July 2016.

  2. Helene Therese Aardema

    Facial recognition was once considered rare. Relatively recent statistics reveal that 2.5% of the world’s population, or one in five people, have the neuropsychological condition. (Chowhan, Sanjana 2013)

    I spent a reasonable amount of time online searching for information regarding clinical trials associated with prosopagnosia as a result of reviewing the statistical information. I was rather shocked to discover one clinical trial, which was suspended. Soroka University Medical Center was the sponsor and the clinical trial was entitled “The Effect of Oxytocin on Face Perception.” Oxytocin is a hormone.

    Stanford University neurologists used a combination of fMRI and electrocorticography to learn that the fusiform gyrus is responsible for facial perception. (Norton, Elizabeth 2012)The fusiform gyrus is part of the temporal and occipital lobes.

    Prosopagnosia can result from stroke, traumatic brain injury, or a genetic predisposition. (Psychology Today n.yr.)

    There is a social stigma associated with prosopagnosia. There are lifestyle adjustments that must be made in order to adapt to the condition. (i.e., alternative ways to identify another person’s face other than by recognition) I am surprised that a contingent of prosopagnosia’s victims and their families haven’t contacted specific governmental agencies, biotech companies, etc. to advance the cause for clinical trials.

    Web Publications

    Chowhan, Sanjana. “Living with Face Blindness.” The Atlantic. Copyright © 2016 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. Web 12 July 2016.

    “The Effect of Oxytocin on Face Perception.” United States National Library of Medicine. No copyright date. Web 12 july 2016. .png.

    Norton Elizabeth. “Facial Recognition: Fusiform Gyrus Brain Region ‘Solely Devoted’ To Faces, Study Suggests.” The Huffington Post.
    Copyright © 2016, Inc. web 12 July 2016.

    “Prosopagnosia.” Psychology Today © 1991-2016. web 12 July 2016. n.a. n.d. n.p

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