Tag Archives: Face-blindness

I’ve just found out about Brad Pitt and prosopagnosia

A CNN news article about Brad Pitt and his suspicions about prosopagnosia came out on Friday. I’ve only just found out about Brad Pitt and face recognition issues. I’m amazed. There is speculation about how he visually recognizes his partner actor Angelina Jolie. Perhaps Mr Pitt just consistently approaches the most beautiful woman in the room. I guess you can do that when you look as gorgeous as Mr Pitt.

Note the photos and notes in the CNN article about many other famous prosopagnosics, including Australia’s beloved Dr Karl and Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden. A disability in face memory isn’t the only difficulty in life that Crown Princess Victoria has had to contend with. She is also a dyslexic and won a battle against anorexia in the 1990s. According to the CNN article, Brad Pitt has been invited to go to Carnegie Mellon University to see Prof Marlene Behrmann and be tested for face-blindness or prosopagnosia and to have his brain imaged. That’s his decision to make. Prof Behrmann does appear to be an expert in the area of face recognition. I would cite Dr Brad Duchaine as another world-class expert.

I don’t see anything wrong with Prof Behrmann’s offer, but a celebrity shouldn’t feel that he has to make a public show of getting diagnosed with something. I guess Mr Pitt has seen the positive impact that his partner’s recent sharing of medical information has made. Perhaps he feels that he would like to also share and go public about a personal issue, and have a professor check out his lobes and gyri and white matter. Perhaps Mr Pitt feels that his apparent difficulty with face memory has alienated so many people that he must now seek and offer a public explanation of why he hasn’t recognized people. Being diagnosed as a prosopagnosic in a consultation that is reported in press releases would appear to be a solution. Finding out whether or not you are a super-recognizer of faces or a prosopagnosic can also be done privately and at no cost. The short version of the Cambridge Face Memory Test used to be freely available on the internet for anyone to complete in the privacy of their own home, with access to their own score. In my opinion, no one should have to volunteer to have their brain scanned or be studied as a single case or be studied as one of many research subjects just to get access to scientifically sound face memory testing and one’s own test results. I also don’t think anyone should have to pay a consultation fee to see someone with letters after their name just to get access to testing. Good face memory tests can be and have been offered freely over the internet. Governments subsidize public access to important health-related information resources on the internet, and I don’t see why face recognition tests should be any different.

I can’t believe that I’ve just written a post about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and a beautiful princess who once had an eating disorder. It just isn’t the kind of thing that I do.

CNN Staff Does Brad Pitt suffer from face blindness? CNN May 24, 2013.  http://edition.cnn.com/2013/05/23/showbiz/celebrity-news-gossip/brad-pitt-esquire-face-blindness/index.html

Tom Junod A life so large. Esquire. June/July 2013.  http://www.esquire.com/features/brad-pitt-cover-interview-0613

Shilo Rea News Brief: Carnegie Mellon Invites Brad Pitt To Campus For Face Blindness Diagnosis, Research. Carnegie Mellon News. May 23rd 2013.  http://www.cmu.edu/news/stories/archives/2013/may/may22_faceblindness.html

Princess Victoria’s face confession. Female First. February 13th 2008.  http://www.femalefirst.co.uk/royal_family/Princess+Victoria-48079.html

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Fashion recognition app that could be useful for prosopagnosics

Google Glass app identifies you by your fashion sense. by Paul Marks New Scientist. Magazine issue 2907, 7 March 2013.

I’m not completely clear how this recognition technology works, but it says it creates a spatiogram that is a record of what a person is wearing, including colours, and it can be used to identify an individual in a crowd. I found it interesting that face recognition was dismissed as unfeasable, considering the many articles I’ve read over the years making big claims for face recognition technology:

“Face recognition systems cannot be used for this, says InSight developer Srihari Nelakuditi at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, because it is unlikely someone in a crowd will be looking straight at a headset’s camera.”

Excellent CBS 60 Minutes story on prosopagnosia finally makes it to Aussie TV, but without super-recognizers

The excellent story about prosopagnosia from the team at the American 60 Minutes current affairs TV show at CBS has tonight been re-broadcast on the Australian version of 60 Minutes. It was good judgement that the Australian 60 Minutes didn’t do their own version of the story with video borrowed from the US show, because I doubt that they could have added much to the well-done American story, which featured prosopagnosia and super-recognition researcher Dr Brad Duchaine, the famous author, neurologist and prosopagnosic Oliver Sacks, the artist and prosopagnosic Chuck Close and a number of other prosopagnosics who generously discussed their experiences. A couple of things are disappointing about the Australian recycling of the story. One is how long it took for the story to make it onto Australian TV screens. The story was originally broadcast on US TV in March 2012. The other disappointment was the cutting out of all of the material about super-recognizers for the Australian recycling of the story. I guess Australian 60 Minutes viewers still don’t know what a super-recogniser is, and I think that is a pity.

The Australian story:

Face blind. (Australian) 60 Minutes. Reporter: Lesley Stahl, CBS 60 Minutes Producer: Shari Finkelstein Broadcast January 25th 2013.    http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=8599151

The original American story:

Face Blindness. Reporter – Lesley Stahl, Producer – Shari Finkelstein, 60 Minutes, CBS News, Broadcast March 18th 2012.

SpaceX, Face Blindness.  (This is a link to the whole 60 Minutes episode, with the whole story “Face Blindness” and another story preceding it. Other links can be found to the story in 2 parts and lots of web extras.)   http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7402640n&tag=cbsnewsMainColumnArea.6

Face recognition and the Navon Task

I was looking at a Wikipedia article and discovered a claim that priming with Navon figures aides the recognition of faces, which seems like something that might be a clue to understanding prosopagnosia or a treatment for it, but then I noticed that this entire section appears to be based on the findings of only one study:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_precedence#Faces

Feature article on super-recognition in New Scientist magazine, and more interesting bits and bobs

(I’m going to finish writing this post later)

Unfortunately the interesting new article by Caroline Williams about super-recognizers is mostly behind a paywall, which we’ve got to expect. I like Ms Williams’ work. I’ve just finished reading her other recent feature article for New Scientist about Von Economo neurons, which are found in the anterior cingulate cortex and the fronto-insular cortex. I think one type of synaesthesia which I have experienced rarely and for a limited period might have involved Von Economo neurons. I refer to the time when I used to experience a pleasant flavour when being hugged by one of our kids, when they were little and sweet and cute and had a big smile. Kids grow up and they can turn quite sour in their teens. That’s life I guess. It looks like Williams’ interest in face recognition goes back a long way, as an article by her that appears to be about prosopagnosia from 2006 can be found in the archives of New Scientist.

Perhaps it is not entirely coincidental that today’s TV news has included a national and a state news story about riot investigations in which Australian police and security forces are using face recognition, perhaps super-recognizers, to try to identify participants or offenders. The riots were in some ways very different – one Sydney riot that broke out over the controversial Muslim-baiting movie, and the other riot was in some outer suburb of Perth with another teenage party that got out of control with the help of Facebook. No doubt both riots included many young and alienated people. In the report at the ABC’s 7.30 program linked to below at around 3.30 into the clip there’s a bit that seems to be hinting about police super-recognizers. On the Perth Seven News story there is a warning that the police will be painstakingly reviewing hours of footage or the riots to try to identify people. They’ll need to have a super-recognizer handy.

Williams, Caroline Face savers. New Scientist. 15 September 2012 no.2882 pages 36-39.   online title: ‘Super-recognisers’ have amazing memory for faces.  http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21528821.500-superrecognisers-have-amazing-memory-for-faces.html

Coghlan, Andy Police could create image of suspect’s face from DNA. New Scientist. 14 September 2012.  http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22271-police-could-create-image-of-suspects-face-from-dna.html

Williams, Caroline Are these the brain cells that give us consciousness? New Scientist. 23 July 2012. no. 2874. p.33-35. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21528741.600-are-these-the-brain-cells-that-give-us-consciousness.html

Williams, Caroline Living in a world without faces. New Scientist. 24 November 2006. no. 2579.  http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19225791.600-living-in-a-world-without-faces.html

Cooper, Hayden Text messages and terror connections inflame Muslim protests. 7.30. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Broadcast: 17/09/2012.  http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2012/s3592083.htm

Party riot fears. Seven News. 18 September 2012. http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/video/watch/d5538a22-a563-3239-9429-e330f7c58aab/party-riot-fears/

Prosopagnosia to be featured on popular Australian current affairs show?

It looks like there will be a story on face-blindness on The Project on Channel Ten next week.
http://theprojecttv.com.au/home.htm

 

Dr Marlene Behrmann explains prosopagnosia

I’ve come across a YouTube video in which Dr Marlene Behrmann talks in an interview from last year about prosopagnosia and gives an authoritative explanation of what it is. She seems to have a slight South African accent.

While watching Dr Behrmann discussing the differences between the typical eye movements of prosopagnosics and regular study subjects while looking at faces I wondered whether the typical eye movements of super-recognizer study subjects might be found to be similar or disssimilar to the eye movements of normal people with average face recognition ability.

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

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

Listening to Heather Sellers’ autobiography

I’ve been listening to the interesting autobiography by prosopagnosic Heather Sellers, titled You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know, in a compact disc format. I had wanted to borrow the book from the public library, but for some reason or another they decided to order it in a spoken word form. Perhaps they thought that face-blindness is a sub-set of ordinary blindness, and the readers who would be interested in the autobiography would have visual impairments or dyslexia. Actually, I’d like to know if there is any link between dyslexia and prosopagnosia, but I know for sure that there are plenty of prosopagnosics who do not report any issues with vision or reading at all.

I’ll admit that I haven’t found the time to listen to all nine discs. The content of disc number seven was particularly of interest to me, covering Ms Sellers’ discovery of her own prosopagnosia, the dreadful way that she was treated during the process of getting professionally diagnosed, in the time when prosopagnosia was thought of as a rare effect of stroke affecting mostly middle-aged men, and speculation about any possible link between her prosopagnosia and her mother’s mental illness. Some useful resources that Ms Sellers wrote about discovering were an academic reserch book by Andrew W. Young and the website Faceblind.org, which is still a very important resource about prosopagnosia. Ms Sellers contacted the face recognition researcher Brad Duchaine and also discovered an online community of prosopagnosics, mostly developmental cases who often saw prosopagnosia in family members, and some acting in the role of disability activist. Different approaches to disclosing prosopagnosia as a disability are touched upon. It’s interesting stuff for sure, and I thank Ms Sellers for sharing her story.

It is perhaps worth mentioning that as I listened to the CDs of Ms Sellers’ autobiography, as visual illustration of the story in my mind’s eye, my mind automatically retrieved some old visual memories from my past in Perth, Western Australia as settings for the story, even though they were probably not a close fit to the real settings of the real events described by the author Sellers from the US. For scenes set in the university in which Sellers was a student, my mind used my visual memories of the Joondalup Campus of the Edith Curtin University, specifically the lunch bar area next to a stairway. For scenes of the story that were set in residential areas my mind used old memories of old and run-down unrenovated two-story blocks of flats in Subiaco (which have probably been fixed up or demolished by now), and for interior shots of the author’s university residence my mind came up with some imagined spaces. Perhaps this effortless, involuntary and unconscious visualization while listening to a story is completely typical of the way all people listen to stories. Whether it is or not, it shows how visual memories are involuntarily and centrally involved with thinking processes that aren’t explicitly remembering or memory-related. Visual memory is not just a isolated function summoned up when we want to remember what something looked like. Visual memory is in the guts of cognition, it is more than a record of past sensory experiences, and this is why I am not surprised that visual memories come up so often (in my own experience) as synaesthesia inducers and concurrents associated with other cognitive functions that appear to have little relation with visual memory, such as fine-motor learned skills and thinking about very abstract concepts. The automatic use of visual memories when I am thinking about a story that I’m listening to shows that visual memory is not just a narrow function of the mind, and I think it also shows that there is little point in trying to make a distinction between memory and imagination, as both appear to be functions that are beyond conscious control, at least in some situations.

A test to identify prosopagnosia (face-blindness) from 60 Minutes CBS

Do you have trouble recognizing faces? Take a test. 60 Minutes. CBS News. March 18, 2012.
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7402559n&tag=contentBody;storyMediaBox

If you think you do have a problem with recognizing faces, I recommend this website, created by university researchers who are experts in the field of prosopagnosia:  http://faceblind.org/