(ORDO NEWS) — The ability to recognize faces is a unique and rather difficult to learn neurocognitive skill, which has important social significance. It’s awkward to meet a smiling and waving man in the park and not recognize him in person. Everyone can forget from time to time where he used to see a passerby greeting him. But only 2% of the world’s population is faced with this problem every day and can’t even recognize good friends, friends and relatives.
This disorder is called prosopagnosia or facial agnosia. Faces seem to people with this disease the same. A traditional view of this problem suggests that blindness on faces arises from visual impairment. However, people with prosopagnosia do a great job with visual identification tests for various items.
The paradox attracted scientists for many years, until researchers from Harvard Medical School in Boston were convinced that the inability to find a neighbor in the country or a colleague was associated with difficulties in extracting information from memory.
Joseph DeGutis, lead author of a paper published in Cortex magazine, believes that people with prosopagnosia cannot remember contextual data about a person: name, profession, marital status, hobby. When you randomly meet friends in the park in the brain of the blind, a vague sensation of acquaintance arises without any details in the memory. Can you trust this feeling?
Scientists performed an experiment in which 60 people aged 18 to 65 participated. Half of the volunteers suffered blindness on their faces throughout their lives. Each participant was shown 60 images of unfamiliar faces. Then the pictures were shown again, but added 60 new images to the set. Volunteers classified individuals as previously seen or first encountered.
Participants without prosopagnosia expectedly completed the task better. Nevertheless, people with blindness could correctly identify many of the faces that they saw in the first part of the experiment, albeit with less confidence. Therefore, scientists believe that the mechanism for recognizing faces in ordinary people and those suffering from prosopagnosia not only differs in the ways of working with memory, but there is something deeper than a vague sensation of acquaintance that helps blind people to recognize them.
Scientists’ results are an important step towards improving the lives of prosopagnosia sufferers. In addition, the work brought researchers closer to a more complete understanding of memory processes and how they relate to visual perception.
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