Prosopagnosia: What are the symptoms and treatment?

Brad Pitt has recently talked about the condition prosopagnosia. What are the symptoms and treatment?

In an interview with GQ magazine, Brad Pitt talked about his struggle with the neurological disorder prosopagnosia. What are the symptoms of face blindness and how is it treated?

Not simply memory loss

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, prosopagnosia is not related to memory loss, vision impairment, or learning disabilities.

In addition, Dr Borna Bonakdarpour, a behavioural neurologist at Northwestern Medicine, said the condition is solely face blindness, not colour blindness or an overall visual impairment, as reported by The New York Times.

Symptoms of prosopagnosia

According to Professor Sarah Bate, from Prosopagnosia Research at Bournemouth University, symptoms include:

  • Confusing characters in films, TV shows and/or plays.
  • Inability to identify people in photographs (including famous people, a personally familiar person, or oneself).
  • Appearing ‘lost’ in a crowded place or large gathering (e.g. in the playground, at a train station).
  • When encountering a person who appears to know them, asks generic questions (nothing personal) until a clue to identity is given.
  • Consistently avoids using other people's names.
  • Never introduces themselves to someone else, or two people to each other.
  • Describing people by using extra-facial information (e.g. 'that's Mr X with the motorbike helmet').
  • Unable to identify an unexpectedly encountered familiar person.
  • Walking past and accidentally ignoring familiar people when in public (i.e. that individual is out of context).
  • Believing others to be extraordinarily good at face recognition and/or being amazed by others' abilities.
  • Struggling to reconstruct or imagine a person's face in one's mind, and/or being unable to describe that face.

Diagnosis and treatment

Prosopagnosia may be diagnosed through the use of the Benton Facial Recognition Test (BFRT) and Warrington Recognition Memory of Faces (RMF), according to Healthline.

Dr Bonakdarpour said that there is no treatment for the condition, however, there are ways to manage it. People with face blindness often develop compensatory strategies such as focusing on extra-facial features likehair colour, walking style, or voices in order to recognise people.

Prosopagnosia Research at Bournemouth University has compiled a list of coping techniques that may help people who experience prosopagnosia. If you think you may have face blindness, please speak to your doctor.

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