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Brain Cogn. 2006 Jul;61(2):139-58. Epub 2006 Feb 8.

What aspects of face processing are impaired in developmental prosopagnosia?

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Kwantlen University College, Canada.


Developmental prosopagnosia (DP) is a severe impairment in identifying faces that is present from early in life and that occurs despite no apparent brain damage and intact visual and intellectual function. Here, we investigated what aspects of face processing are impaired/spared in developmental prosopagnosia by examining a relatively large group of individuals with DP (n = 8) using an extensive battery of well-established tasks. The tasks included measures of sensitivity to global motion and to global form, detection that a stimulus is a face, determination of its sex, holistic face processing, processing of face identity based on features, contour, and the spacing of features, and judgments of attractiveness. The DP cases showed normal sensitivity to global motion and global form and performed normally on our tests of face detection and holistic processing. On the other tasks, many DP cases were impaired but there was no systematic pattern. At least half showed deficits in processing of facial identity based on either the outer contour or spacing of the internal features, and/or on judgments of attractiveness. Three of the eight were impaired in processing facial identify based on the shape of internal features. The results show that DP is a heterogeneous condition and that impairment in recognizing faces cannot be predicted by poor performance on any one measure of face processing.

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