Tag Archives: Acquired Prosopagnosia

Interesting letter from last year re acquired prosopagnosia and the uncanny valley

Editor’s pick: Excluded from the uncanny valley
From Bob Cockshott

New Scientist. Issue 3100. November 19th 2016. p.60.

https://www.newscientist.com/letter/mg23231002-500-1-editors-pick-excluded-from-the-uncanny-valley/

The experience described in the letter seems to suggest that there is more to face recognition than simple memory or faces, or could it be that there are aspects of the perception of faces in particular that make them especially memorable? Faces are easy to personify because they are usually found on people. Perhaps it is the ability to detect the person behind the face that has become amiss in the letter’s author following his stroke, and maybe this ability feeds into face memory? Such a relationship would explain the author’s inability to notice the uncanny valley, and it would also explain why a personifying synaesthete like myself is also a super-recognizer.

P.S.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23230970-500-exploring-the-uncanny-valley-why-almosthuman-is-creepy/

I’ve had a read of the interesting article by Laura Spinney that this letter was a comment about, and I think the Perceptual Mismatch Theory of the Uncanny Valley Effect probably offers a more plausible explanation of my a prosopagnosic might be unable to detect the uncanny valley than the competing Category Uncertainty Theory. The article explained the two theories and evidence supporting them. To summarise, the CUT explains the UVE as the result of confusion about what type of thing one is looking at (for example robot or human?), while the PMT explains the UVE as resulting from unease or perceptual confusion when different features or parts of the thing or being viewed have dissimilar levels of human-like appearance (for example the face and skin look realistic but the eyes do not move like human eyes). I think the case of a prosopagnosic not detecting the UVE when people with normal face perception do is support for the PMT theory rather than the other because as far as I know, prosopagnosia does not involve inability to classify faces or bodies as human or non-human, while I believe there is evidence supporting the idea that prosopagnosia can be the result of not being able to perceptually integrate the features of the face as a whole that is recognizable as a unique or distinctive mix of many attributes and features. A non-prosopagnosic person should be able to perceive a face or body as a whole made up of parts, and notice if one or more elements has a level of humanity that does not match other parts, as in the PMT, while a prosopagnosic might not. Of course, research is needed to investigate my armchair speculations.

Lecture by world-class researcher about super-recognition and prosopagnosia

This talk or lecture by Professor Nancy Kanwisher is not new and the content will be nothing new to regular readers of this blog, but it is a nice introduction to the concepts of prosopagnosia, super-recognizers and the spectrum theory of face recognition ability, which has been challenged to a degree in a recent paper. I also like the little comment about the experience of being a “smart” student in high school. As a parent of gifted kids I know all about that stuff.

Individual differences in face recognition and developmental prosopagnosia

http://nancysbraintalks.mit.edu/video/individual-differences-face-recognition-and-developmental-prosopagnosia

https://youtu.be/_L5ESU9oNh4

See more at:

Nancy’s Brain Talks

http://nancysbraintalks.mit.edu/video/individual-differences-face-recognition-and-developmental-prosopagnosia#sthash.nqN5I24Q.dpuf

 

Is there a relationship between prosopagnosia and Capgras syndrome?

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22429944.700-imposter-disorder-explains-how-mans-wife-was-stolen.html#.VGQ5rfmUd8E

Fascinating Reddit conversation from last year

MyNameIs BrookeToo I am a faceblind girl dating a super-recognizer. AUsA. Reddit. Discussion started March 25th 2012. http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/rcgh8/i_am_a_faceblind_girl_dating_a_superrecognizer/ 

This is a fascinating and long discussion in which a prosopagnosic lady using the name MyNameIsBrookeToo and her super-recognizer boyfriend using the name Shandog answer many questions. Does Facebook discriminate against people who have prosopagnosia? The aspect of this question and answer session which I find the most interesting is the way Shandog describes the actual experience of super-recognition. The way he describes it, it sounds a lot like synaesthesia, particularly two types of synaesthesia experienced by myself (a super-recognizer who also experiences many different types of synaesthesia) of which I believe I was the first person to ever write and publish descriptions; domino-effect synaesthesia and The Strange Phenomenon. I suggest that you use the “find” button on your browser to look through this Reddit conversation and find the two instances in which the word “trigger” is used (by Shandog). The word “trigger” is of course often used in descriptions of the experience of synaesthesia, because that is basically what synaesthesia is, the triggering of one experience by another, in unexpected ways. In synaesthesia the triggering experience is called an inducer and the triggered unexpected or idiosyncratic experience is called a concurrent. I think Shandog’s descriptions support the assertion that I made years ago that my super-recognition is connected or caused by my synaesthesia, and this could well be the case for other supers, but I guess we should also consider that Shandog’s comments and ideas might have been influenced by reading this blog.

Chapter about a case of acquired prosopagnosia in a fairly new book

Trouble In Mind: Stories from a Neuropsychologist’s Casebook by New Zealander neurpsychologist Dr Jenni Ogden has a chapter in it about Michael who acquired prospagnosia from damage to the right side of his brain. It appears that this book has an Australian edition and another earlier edition. If you have an interest in face recognition, neuropsychology or prosopagnosia it is probably worth a look.

http://www.amazon.com/Trouble-Mind-Stories-Neuropsychologists-Casebook/dp/0199827001

http://www.jenniogden.com/trouble_in_mind_104472.htm

Can electroconvulsive therapy (ECT, electroshock) cause permanent acquired prosopagnosia?

It seems very clear that ECT can cause at least temporary acquired prosopagnosia or severely impaired face memory:

“In this building I, I saw her maybe four times, I visited maybe four times, and um, she progressively got less aware of who I was. On one occasion she didn’t know me from Adam.”

That is a quote from an episode (titled “Mind Control”) in the television series Into the Mind, featuring Dr Michael Mosley (I very much like his TV work and the shows he appears in). The person the quote refers to had been an attractive English 21 year-old lady named Mary Thornton who was sent to a psychiatric institution by her parents after some family conflicts. Patients in that institution were given extreme and experimental treatments: deep sleep therapy, heavy regimes of psychiatric drugs and ECT. The doctor who dreamed-up these experimental regimes of psychiatric treatment was the ambitious and controversial psychiatrist Dr William Sargant, who apparently set out explicitly to destroy memory in his treatment and also reportedly had his own history of psychiatric illness (depression).

The person who spoke the above quote in the TV series was the then-boyfriend of the young lady who had been given the extreme psychiatric treatment. For a while after being released from St Thomas’ Hospital in London she forgot that she had ever had a boyfriend, but then the memory returned and she found his phone number. They met again, and have been together ever since. As you might expect, many of the other patients did not have such happiness in their lives following release from psychiatric care. Some never made it out of that hospital alive. Australian history has a similar horror story of very similar forms of psychiatric abuse, in the Chelmsford Hospital scandal, which led to a Royal Commission into Deep Sleep Therapy. Twenty-four Australian patients had died as the result of deep sleep therapy. The Australian version of Dr Sargant was Dr Harry Bailey, Chief Psychiatrist at Chelmsford Private Hospital. It is thought he was responsible for the deaths of 85 patients. Bailey killed himself before he could be held accountable for his crimes.

A quote from Mary Thornton:

“My memories are like snap-shots, one is the electrodes being touched to the side of my head, being given a general anaesthetic, seeing an image of myself in a mirror one day, seeing a strange face looking back at myself, and being really, really frightened that I would never get out.”

We must make sure that such medical abuse is never, ever allowed to happen again, in any corner of the globe.

Links to relevant info:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electroconvulsive_therapy#Effects_on_memory

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=William_Sargant&oldid=546499660

http://www.bbcactivevideoforlearning.com/1/TitleDetails.aspx?TitleID=23342

Just noticed article about prosopagnosia and face space in special edition of Discover magazine

At the newsagent the other day I noticed a special edition of Discover magazine “The Brain” with the date of Spring 2012. Inside it was an article about face recognition research done by Professor Marlene Behrmann of Carnegie Mellon University. I am pretty sure that it is the same interesting article that was first published in the January-February 2011 special issue of Discover. The article author Carl Zimmer explained the concept of the face space model of face memory and described a research study which found an interesting difference between an acquired prosopagnosic and some developmental cases and normal control subjects. The article can be read at the website of Discover magazine and can also be found in full-text through at least one of the press and magazine article online services that are offered through public libraries.

Carl Zimmer The brain: seeing the person behind the face. Discover. Jan-Feb 2011 special issue published online January 19, 2011. http://discovermagazine.com/2011/jan-feb/19-brain-seeing-person-behind-the-face

here’s another interesting article at Discover about face recognition

John Horgan Can a single cell recognize your face? Discover. June 2005 edition published online June  5, 2005.  http://discovermagazine.com/2005/jun/single-brain-cell

and here’s a YouTube video in which Dr Marlene Behrmann talks in a  interview about prosopagnosia and gives an authoritative explanationa of what it is. She seems to have a slight South African accent.

Peng, Cynthia Marlene Behrmann – prosopagnosia. goCognitive. uploaded Sep 25, 2011.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-z9PGrgPlYw&feature=related

Interesting stuff from the New York Times from late last year about prosopagnosia and another condition that I’d not heard of – phonagnosia

Have We Met? Tracing Face Blindness to Its Roots by Karen Barrow New York Times December 26, 2011   http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/27/health/views/face-and-voice-recognition-may-be-linked-in-the-brain-research-suggests.html?_r=2

this is the study mentioned in the above article:

Direct Structural Connections between Voice- and Face-Recognition Areas. Helen Blank, Alfred Anwander, and Katharina von Kriegstein Journal of Neuroscience. 7 September 2011,31(36): 12906-12915; doi: 10.1523/​JNEUROSCI.2091-11.2011  http://www.jneurosci.org/content/31/36/12906.abstract?sid=2704774c-0cbd-4342-9b75-639b388b99f9

and this is the video featuring Dori Frame that goes with the article:

Faceless produced by Almudena Toral New York Times December 2011 http://video.nytimes.com/video/2011/12/26/health/100000000958226/faceless.html

Radio show and article from BBC last year about super-recognizers

There was a great blitz of pop science articles about superrecognizers in 2009, probably the result of a bit of awareness-raising by researchers. More recent mass media stuff on the subject is quite rare, so I thought it worth noting these interesting BBC items from last year. The interesting experiences of Jennifer the super-recognizer and Clare with acquired prosopagnosia are recounted in the Rutherford article. A quote from a researcher:

“One of the most exciting implications of this work is that while we assume we all see the same things, this work suggests that at least in terms of looking at faces we don’t see the same things.”

A quote from the summary of the radio program:

“As many as 1 in 50 people are prosopagnosic but many won’t know they have a problem. What are the implications for border control, policing and eye witness evidence?”

Never forgetting a face
by Pam Rutherford
January 25th 2010
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8474827.stm

Super recognizers
by Claudia Hammond
BBC Radio 4
first broadcast 25 Jan 2010
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00q3fbv

YouTube video about prosopagnosia with an interview with Dr Ashok Jansari, and David who has acquired prosopagnosia

Dr Ashok Jansari is one of the researchers involved with the study of superrecognizers that is currently happening in London, and runs till early January 2012, and is seeking participants who believe that they might be super-recognizers. Dr Jansari studies both extremes of face memory ability. I love his suit.

In this video a British man with acquired prosopagnosia, David Bromley, is interviewed by the rather cute English science television host Dr Michael Mosley. David generously explains what it is like to be suddenly forced to manage in life without any face memory. To compensate David has become very attentive to details of a person’s appearance other than the face.

http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/H5Hooty5YMo