Tag Archives: Marlene Behrmann

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

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

Interesting new article about face processing and prosopagnosia in Discover magazine

This is a most informative article detailing some enlightening research by academics such as cognitive neuroscientist Marlene Behrmann, involving face processing by regular people and by different types of prosopagnosics. It turns out there are important differences between different types of prosopagnosics. An important theory in the science of face processing, the “face space model”,  is explained in this article, and it also explains who the heck Dan and Jim are.

Although synaesthesia is not mentioned in this article, at the end of the article there is a great big hint as to why synaesthesia might be associated with superior face processing abilities (super-recognizers or high ability), and why an under-connected brain might be associated with developmental prosopagnosia (congenital face-blindness).

Zimmer, Carl The brain: seeing the person behind the face. Discover. January-February 2011. Online January 19th 2011.


Does The Strange Phenomenon have implications for scientific understanding of object recognition and face recognition?

All around our house I have half-read copies of New Scientist magazine lying about, some months old. I had put aside an August issue because there was a story in it about visual disorders that looked like it could have been interesting. I’ve recently found the time to read it, and I’ve read it again with my brain fully switched on, and it looks as though there is an interesting relationship between The Strange Phenomenon, a face-recognition related thing that I’ve described in the first post of this blog, and two competing scientific theories about object recognition. I’m no scientist, but from what I can grasp from the science magazine article, there is one theory about visual object recognition that “we flick through a mental catalogue of objects we have seen before-and preferably, a view of these objects from every vantage point-to try to find a best fit with the current image.” I think The Strange Phenomenon indicates that face recognition works in this way, at least in my brain. The Strange Phenomenon certainly, definitely seems to work on memories of faces that are like two-dimensional photographs rather than three-dimensional models of objects. The New Scientist article reports a study by researcher Marlene Behrmann from Carnegie Mellon University in the US that is consistent with a competing theory about object recognition, that it works by memorizing objects as constructions of generic building blocks, rather than storing memories of objects as “pictures” or “scenes”.

So, does this all put together indicate that face recognition works very differently than object recognition? Does face recognition work like one theory of object recognition, while object recognition actually works like the other theory? Do our brain modules specialized for object recognition and for face recognition work very differently? Is this why prosopagnosia can be a very specific disability?  I’m just an educated housewife interpreting a report in a science magazine, so if you really want to know if this is a sensible interpretation of the research and the current theories of how our visual systems work, I strongly recommend that you go ask a person who actually works in a university.

It’s a pity the article discussed is behind a paywall on the New Scientist website.

Robson, David Seeing isn’t believing. New Scientist. August 28th 2010. Volume 207 Number 2775 p.30-33.

Online version:

Robson, David The mind’s eye: How the brain sorts out what you see. New Scientist. August 30th 2010.