If you’ve read the previous post you will know that I spent a couple of days at University of Queensland doing some neuropsych testing. It was a very intensive and exhaustive experience. It was also interesting and enjoyable. I am more than glad to be involved in it. The particular research project this was connecting to was in regard to the study of the Corpus Callosum, which is, the largest white matter structure of the brain. It is a bundle of 250 million or so neurological connection that cross the midline of the brain.
This is very important research, the rare conditions Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum and other Disorders of the Corpus Callosum are very rare indeed and impact a very small group segment of the human population. They are no less important than any other group and so any research to assist in understanding their condition is extremely important.
This is not a condition that effects me personally, but it does effect my family as one of my family members has this condition. They were born without this vital part of their brain physiology.
Having made that point, I want to talk about the issue of Prosopagnosia, or face-blindness. Wikipedia defines this condition as:
Prosopagnosia/ˌprɒsəpæɡˈnoʊʒə/ (Greek: “prosopon” = “face”, “agnosia” = “not knowing”), also called face blindness, is a cognitive disorder of face perception where the ability to recognize familiar faces, including your own face (self-recognition), is impaired, while other aspects of visual processing (e.g., object discrimination) and intellectual functioning (e.g., decision making) remain intact.
This is a very real condition that afflicts some autistics. It’s not a thing that I have ever really had to consider personally. I don’t really have difficulty in recognising faces. I’ve never felt that I have at all, and I have not really experienced situations where people expect me to recognise them and I don’t.
Face-blindness is a difficult thing for those that deal with it. Imagine the challenge of not recognising your family members and close friends by looking at their face. I imagine there would be many occasions of embarrassment and explanations needing to be made.
For an excellent explanation of this condition please watch the below video by Amythest Schaber of Ask and Autistic.
No I don’t suffer face-blindness, and I don’t in anyway wish to minimise the challenges that go with it, though, during one of the activities I had to complete during the neuro-psychological assessment I completed I noticed something quite interesting that I had not ever noticed in myself before.
I discovered that, I don’t in fact look at a whole face, I don’t see a face as a whole but as a combination of different features. This was a real surprise t
o me, and has left me thinking about it over the last few days.
The activity involved looking at a face and then matching that face with a group of other faces. There were about six other faces, one of which
matched the original. I found this activity a lot more challenging than I expected it to be.
The key thing I noticed was that I wasn’t able to look at the face and then the other faces and easily make the connection with the correct face. I noticed that in fact what I saw was a bunch of individual features, a set of eyes or a chin, or a pair of ears.
I then found I had to take that set of ears or eyes or that chin and find them in the other faces.
The activity followed up with an activity which was similar, yet quite different. I was in this case required to identify not just the same face but also two others which were the same but facing a slightly different direction. This was actually very difficult.
Clearly, with my history of recognition of my family, friends and aquaintainces this condition is not an issue I have. I wonder though now is there a spectrum within this condition too. A spectrum of how well we are able to recognise and identify faces. I suppose it is a possibility. Something of course people far more qualified than me would be able to speak to with far more insight. I do wonder though of course.
This is a really important issue. Something the public should be educated about. Just as we are educated about other aspects of disability we should be on issues like this. Just as we would not question a person in a wheelchair needing particular accomodations and supports in their daily life, so we should not question if a person with Prosopagnosia’s need for accomodation and supports to recognise those they encounter in their daily lives.
Next time someone you know, or feel, should recognise you doesn’t before you get offended or upset, take a moment to consider that they may just not be able to for real reasons beyond their control, and not just because they have not made an effort. Have a think abo