What Is Prosopagnosia?
While most of us are guilty of forgetting the name of someone we've met before, we're generally quite good at remembering faces, and certainly recognize close friends and family at a glance. For those with the neurological disorder known as prosopagnosia (also called face blindness), those loved ones can appear to be strangers. People with prosopagnosia cannot recognize familiar faces and often cannot distinguish among the faces of strangers. They may also have trouble recognizing familiar places or objects or seeing the difference between someone's face and another object. Some people with prosopagnosia even have difficulty recognizing themselves. Researchers estimate that one in 50 people may have some form of prosopagnosia.
Acquired prosopagnosia occurs in older men and women after a brain injury, stroke, or the onset of degenerative disease. Developmental prosopagnosia appears during childhood and may have genetic roots or be due to a prenatal or childhood brain abnormality or damage. Children on the autism spectrum often display some degree of prosopagnosia, which may account for their social limitations.
Since there is no cure for prosopagnosia, treatment focuses on the development of compensatory skills, such as looking for cues like unique physical characteristics or voice that will help them identify their own friends, family members, and acquaintances. People with prosopagnosia may draw inspiration from successful people who have coped with the condition, such as Oliver Sacks and Chuck Close.