Sometimes you see someone and cannot remember where you recognize them from. Although this is generally seen as normal, it can be a sign of face blindness. This disease, which affects 2.5 percent of the world’s population, is now back on the agenda with US actor Brad Pitt… So what is face blindness and how does it occur? What problems does it cause in a person’s social life? Experts answered our questions…
Prosopagnosia, also known as face blindness, first described by German neurologist Joachim Bodamer, was previously thought to be rare. However, as a result of the research conducted by the UK National Health Service in recent years, it was revealed that it occurs in 1 out of every 50 people.
People with this condition have serious problems distinguishing people’s faces. They even have difficulty recognizing other elements such as objects, cars or animals.
BRAD PITT: ‘I MAY BE FACE BLIND, I CAN’T REMEMBER PEOPLE’S FACES’
In a recent interview with GQ magazine, 58-year-old US actor Brad Pitt said that he may be face blind, although he has not yet been diagnosed. Explaining that he has difficulty remembering people, the famous actor emphasized that he wants to remember faces but cannot, that he is ashamed of this situation and that no one believes him.
In fact, Brad Pitt has spoken before about his inability to recognize faces and the impact of this difficulty on his reputation. In another interview in 2013, he said, “A lot of people hate me. Because they think I deliberately disrespect them. But this is my reality. Sometimes I can’t grasp a face, I forget it and I have difficulty remembering it. I will have it tested.”
‘SOME PATIENTS CAN’T EVEN RECOGNIZE THEMSELVES IN THE MIRROR’
Although the disease came to the agenda after Brad Pitt’s statements, it is quite remarkable that 1 out of every 50 people have this problem. So how does Face Blindness occur?
“Prosopagnosia is expressed as a disorder in recognizing something or someone that occurs as a result of brain disease,” said the Neurology Specialist, and shared important information about the signs of the disease:
-Face blindness usually begins when a person with a well-known face is visually unrecognizable and completely unfamiliar. Patients cannot recognize people, even very close family members, by looking at their faces. However, they can immediately recognize them by other features, such as body structure, demeanor or voice. In some extreme cases, patients cannot recognize themselves in the mirror or even when looking at their photographs.
-Yet they know that a human face is a human face and can easily point to the eyes, ears, nose or mouth. So we can say that it is a kind of memory impairment. And prosopagnosia is not limited to human faces. There’s a farmer in the literature who can’t tell his cows apart and a birdwatcher who can no longer recognize different species of birds.
-But some prosopagnosics can recognize any object in the environment. For example, they can recognize a pen, a dress, a car, but they don’t know their past relationship to that object. So they can’t decide whether the object belongs to them or not, or they can’t tell the make of a particular car.
Prosopagnosia significantly affects the daily life of patients. Because the face functions as an important identifying feature in retention, it can be difficult for people with the condition to keep track of information about people and socialize normally with others. Naturally, this can lead to the development of social anxiety disorder.
IT CAN BE ACQUIRED OR CONGENITAL
The Neurologist stated that there are two subtypes of prosopagnosia: acquired (acquired) and developmental (congenital – during growth and development) and continued as follows
– Patients with the acquired type are adults and often have damage to the areas of the brain involved in facial recognition due to trauma, infection, tumor and vascular disease. Acquired prosopagnosia can take the form of aperseptive (grasping agnosia) or asociative (associative agnosia) agnosia.
– Both of these are very important. The main problem in patients with aperseptive prosopagnosia is the impairment of the first stages of face recognition, namely the discrimination of facial components and the identification of similar and different situations in different faces. The problem in associative prosopagnosia is the loss of function in the neural connection pathways that enable the data obtained in the first stages to be matched with the data stored in memory. For this reason, patients can guess the age and gender of the person they are looking at from the faces they see, but they are unable to match the information they have in their own memory, such as their names and occupations.
– Developmental prosopagnosia is a congenital disorder and can be recognized as early as childhood. Hereditary prosopagnosia is suspected when more than one family member is affected. In these families, the incidence of the disorder increases.
VERY HIGH INCIDENCE OF 2-2.5 PERCENT’
In addition, Dr. Guven underlined that prosopagnosia has been detected at a very high rate of 2-2.5 percent in recent studies and added:
-This disease is often overlooked as it is a subject with low awareness. It is especially lost under other diagnoses. For example, in children, it is well known that it is associated with other developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders.
-In adults, facial recognition impairment in Alzheimer’s disease is thought to occur by a similar mechanism. In an increasingly digitalized world, where face-to-face conversations are now being held in virtual environments with unreal figures, I think that the rates of prosopagnosia diagnosis will increase.
Prosopagnosia has been the subject of several movies. For example, ‘The Face of the Killer’, directed and written by Julien Magnat, tells the story of a young woman who suffers from face blindness. The short film ‘Carlotta’s Face’, directed by neuroscientist Valentin Riedl and animator Frédéric Schuld, also explores face blindness through characters.
THERE IS NO CURE!
It seems that face blindness is a very difficult disease that deeply affects the daily life of the person. At this point, the question comes to mind; ‘What is the treatment method of the disease? If a person has this disease, can they get rid of it completely, or do they have to get used to living with it for life?
Prof. Dr. Orken said that there is no cure for prosopagnosia, adding:
“Prosopagnostics usually learn to use recognition strategies based on parts or features. This includes secondary cues such as clothing, gait, hair color, body shape, mood and demeanor, and voice. “However, these strategies do not always work and a person with prosopagnosia may still have difficulty recognizing someone they know in an unexpected setting or when there are changes in appearance.”