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Eur J Neurosci. 2007 Apr;25(7):2234-47.

Event-related potentials reflect heterogeneity of developmental prosopagnosia.

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  • 1Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Department. of Neuropsychology, Ruhr-University of Bochum, Universit√§tsstrasse 150, D-44780 Bochum, Germany.


Event-related potential (ERP) studies of developmental prosopagnosia (DP) are rare. Previous ERP investigations have reported smaller N170 amplitude differences between faces and objects in at least three prosopagnosics. The present study is based on a combination of behavioural and electrophysiological assessment of face processing. The aim was to investigate the face-specificity of the N170 in both healthy subjects and a group of DP individuals (N = 4), using famous and nonfamous faces, caricatures and houses as stimuli. All prosopagnosic subjects showed impairments in recognition of famous faces, memory for faces and learning new faces in behavioural assessment. In healthy subjects the largest effects were found at parieto-occipital electrode positions (PO7 and PO8), along with a familiarity effect at these electrode positions. Thus, parieto-occipital areas appear to play an important role in face processing. Three prosopagnosics showed reliable N170 amplitude differences between faces and nonface stimuli, whereas one DP individual showed significantly reduced amplitude differences between faces and nonface objects. The behavioural and electrophysiological data support the idea that DP reflects a heterogeneous impairment and that face processing deficits are not necessarily correlated with a lack of face-specific N170.

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