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Cortex. 2007 Aug;43(6):734-49.

Hereditary prosopagnosia: the first case series.

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  • 1Institute of Human Genetics, Westfälische Wilhelms-University, Münster, Germany.


Prosopagnosia is defined as a specific type of visual agnosia characterised by a discernible impairment in the capacity to recognise familiar people by their faces. We present seven family pedigrees with 38 cases in two to four generations of suspected hereditary prosopagnosia, detected using a screening questionnaire. Men and women are impaired and the anomaly is regularly transmitted from generation to generation in all pedigrees studied. Segregation is best explained by a simple autosomal dominant mode of inheritance, suggesting that loss of human face recognition can occur by the mutation of a single gene. Eight of the 38 affected persons were tested on the Warrington Recognition Memory Test for Faces (RMF; Warrington, 1984), famous and family faces tests, learning tests for internal and external facial features and a measure of mental imagery for face and non-face images. As a group, the eight participants scored significantly below an age- and education-matched comparison group on the most relevant test of face recognition; and all were impaired on at least one of the tests. The results provide compelling evidence for significant genetic contribution to face recognition skills and contribute to the promise offered by the emerging field of cognitive neurogenetics.

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