All you need to know about face blindness

Published on Jul 02, 2022 10:18 AM IST
Prosopagnosia, the disorder that actors Shenaz Treasury and Brad Pitt share, leads to an inability to recognise people’s faces
rosopagnosia comes from the Greek words prosopon, which means face, and agnosia, meaning ignorance. (Shutterstock)
rosopagnosia comes from the Greek words prosopon, which means face, and agnosia, meaning ignorance. (Shutterstock)

New Delhi

Face blindness or facial agnosia, which leads to selective inability to recognise faces, may sound like a new disorder, but it was first documented in the 19th century. It was named prosopagnosia in 1947 by German neurologist, Joachim Bodamer.

While actor Shenaz Treasury is the latest celeb to open up on her prosopagnosia diagnosis, Hollywood actor Brad Pitt had also recently revealed he may be suffering from the disorder. The 58-year-old is yet to be formally diagnosed, but he shared how he has a hard time remembering new people and their faces.

According to studies, the condition is estimated to affect around 2% of the general population. We speak to experts to understand more. Prosopagnosia comes from the Greek words prosopon, which means face, and agnosia, meaning ignorance. Prosopagnosics often have difficulty recognising family members, close friends, and even themselves. “This happens because of damage to the posterior part of the brain or occipital temporal gyrus, often called the face recognition area,” says Dr Kadam Nagpal, senior consultant neurology, PSRI Hospital.

Hollywood actor Brad Pitt had also recently revealed he may be suffering from the disorder.
Hollywood actor Brad Pitt had also recently revealed he may be suffering from the disorder.

According to the Prosopagnosia Research Center - Faceblind at Dartmouth, Harvard, and University of London, prosopagnosics have difficulty recognising faces they have encountered many times. In extreme cases, this could even extend to their spouse or children. It is also important to note that prosopagnosia is defined by problems in recognising faces, not in recalling names.

The disorder is usually caused by a traumatic injury to the brain, stroke or neurodegenerative conditions like dementia. In children, it has been linked to autism or Asperger’s syndrome.“Patients with such neurological injuries remain at high risk of acquired prosopagnosia. The milder type is the congenital variant, which is present at birth. A person with a family history of congenital prosopagnosia is at high risk due to genetic mutation or deletion. Children with autism are also at risk due to their impaired social development,” says Dr Nagpal.

“There is no direct treatment for the disorder and there are no definitive medicines either,” says Dr Praveen Gupta, principal director and head, Department of Neurology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute. Treating the underlying ailment and adopting compensatory strategies for identification of people, are the only ways to manage it. “Those with neurological injuries may discover compensatory clues like relying on voice, clothing, or unique physical attributes for identifying people around them. In patients with traumatic brain injury or stroke, the natural plasticity of the brain may lead to the healing of brain parenchyma, which might, in turn, lead to recovery from prosopagnosia in some patients,” says Gupta.

While there is no direct link between the disorder and a specific diet, Neha Pathania, chief dietitian, Paras Hospitals, advises, “Diet rich in antioxidants, fibre, and regular exercise will help in preventing neurological disorders. Control of blood pressure, diabetes and preventing lifestyle disorders like obesity will keep a check on acquired neurological insult and may reduce chances of acquired prosopagnosia.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ruchika Garg writes on Art and Culture, for the daily Entertainment & Lifestyle supplement, HT City

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