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Acquired Prosopagnosia--Impaired facial recognition

Posted by Margaret Donohue on October 11, 2015 at 1:50 PM

It was 1985.  I lived in Panorama City and the man that followed me through the security gate was intent on robbing me.  I hit the back of my head on concrete and sufferred a concussion.  My glasses were broken into my face when he hit me.  I didn't notice anything was wrong apart from the bruises.  It was about a month before I noticed my sense of smell and taste were off.  It was almost 6 months before I realized I didn't really recognize faces.  People looked like people.  I wnt to work.  I interacted with people.  Everything seemed fine.  Then I noticed people at work were changing clothes often.  Like every hour or so.  As I moved around the office complex I'd see someone, then an hour or so later I'd see them again but their clothes were different.  Hmm.  


So one day I went to Terry and asked her why she was changing her clothes so often.  "Huh? I'm not."  She said.  "But earlier today you were wearing a blue jacket over some slacks, now you're in a yellow dress." I said.  "Jean has on a blue jacket.  She's worn it all day."  "Jean? That was Jean?" So I started trying to keep track of all the people that were changing clothes.  No one was.  I just couldn't tell them apart.  My boss had facial plastic surgery.  I couldn't tell.  There were movies I couldn't follow the plot in.  There were relatives I didn't recognize.  I lost my husband in the men's clothing section of the department store.  Finally someone explained about head injury and loss of facial recognition.  


In right handed people the right occipital lobe allows people to recognize faces and differentiate them from one person to the next.  Otherwise it's like looking at faces upside down.  You can try that.  Faces still look like faces, but the ability to tell one person from the next if the face is upside down is quite limited.  


There are some people that are born with the condition, but many people like me acquire it as a result of a traumatic brain injury.  There are compensating strategies to use, such as seating charts if you're a teacher, or noticing hair styles or clothing.  I tell people I don't recognize people from one setting to the next.  If you see me and I'm not responding, feel free to come up and say hello.  Please remind me who you are because it's likely I don't recognize you.


If you need help dealing with a traumatic brain injury.  Feel free to contact us. 818-223-4116.

Categories: Brain Injury

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