Neural and genetic foundations of face recognition and prosopagnosia

University of Vienna, Faculty of Psychology, Vienna, Austria
Journal of Neuropsychology (Impact Factor: 2.49). 04/2008; 2(Pt 1):79-97. DOI: 10.1348/174866407X231001
Source: PubMed


Faces are of essential importance for human social life. They provide valuable information about the identity, expression, gaze, health, and age of a person. Recent face-processing models assume highly interconnected neural structures between different temporal, occipital, and frontal brain areas with several feedback loops. A selective deficit in the visual learning and recognition of faces is known as prosopagnosia, which can be found both in acquired and congenital form. Recently, a hereditary sub-type of congenital prosopagnosia with a very high prevalence rate of 2.5% has been identified. Recent research results show that hereditary prosopagnosia is a clearly circumscribed face-processing deficit with a characteristic set of clinical symptoms. Comparing face processing of people of prosopagnosia with that of controls can help to develop a more conclusive and integrated model of face processing. Here, we provide a summary of the current state of face processing research. We also describe the different types of prosopagnosia and present the set of typical symptoms found in the hereditary type. Finally, we will discuss the implications for future face recognition research.

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    • "This usually results in lower accuracy and slower reaction times (RTs; Valentine, 1988). Some interesting findings have been found in presenting inverted faces to patients with prosopagnosia, a neurological disorder characterized by the inability to recognize faces (Bauer, 1984; Grüter et al., 2008; Gainotti, 2014). Patients with congenital (Rivolta et al., 2012) and acquired prosopagnosia (Busigny and Rossion, 2010), show not to have holistic perceptual processing abilities, being minimally (if at all) affected by face inversion. "
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    ABSTRACT: From a phenomenological perspective, faces are perceived differently from objects as their perception always involves the possibility of a relational engagement (Bredlau, 2011). This is especially true for familiar faces, i.e., faces of people with a history of real relational engagements. Similarly, valence of emotional expressions assumes a key role, as they define the sense and direction of this engagement. Following these premises, the aim of the present study is to demonstrate that face recognition is facilitated by at least two variables, familiarity and emotional expression, and that perception of familiar faces is not influenced by orientation. In order to verify this hypothesis, we implemented a 3 × 3 × 2 factorial design, showing 17 healthy subjects three type of faces (unfamiliar, personally familiar, famous) characterized by three different emotional expressions (happy, hungry/sad, neutral) and in two different orientation (upright vs. inverted). We showed every subject a total of 180 faces with the instructions to give a familiarity judgment. Reaction times (RTs) were recorded and we found that the recognition of a face is facilitated by personal familiarity and emotional expression, and that this process is otherwise independent from a cognitive elaboration of stimuli and remains stable despite orientation. These results highlight the need to make a distinction between famous and personally familiar faces when studying face perception and to consider its historical aspects from a phenomenological point of view.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 09/2014; 8:672. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00672 · 3.63 Impact Factor
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    • "Stollhoff, Elze, Kennerknecht, & Jost (2011). Some researchers have proposed that the condition has a genetic basis and label it as hereditary prosopagnosia (Grüter et al., 2007; Kennerknecht, Grüter, Welling, Wentzek, Horst, Edwards, & Grüter, 2006; Kennerknecht, Plümpe, & Welling, 2008). It has even been suggested that about 2% of the population would suffer from this face processing deficit. "
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    ABSTRACT: There is abundant evidence that face recognition, in comparison to the recognition of other objects, is based on holistic processing rather than analytic processing. One line of research that provides evidence for this hypothesis is based on the study of people who experience pronounced difficulties in visually identifying conspecifics on the basis of their face. Earlier, we developed a behavioural paradigm to directly test analytic vs. holistic face processing. In comparison to a to be remembered reference face stimulus, one of two test stimuli was either presented in full view, with an eye-contingently moving window (only showing the fixated face feature, and therefore only affording analytic processing), or with an eye-contingently moving mask or scotoma (masking the fixated face feature, but still allowing holistic processing). In the present study we use this paradigm (that we used earlier in acquired prosopagnosia) to study face perception in congenital prosopagnosia (people having difficulties recognizing faces from birth on, without demonstrable brain damage). We observe both holistic and analytic face processing deficits in people with congenital prosopagnosia. Implications for a better understanding, both of congenital prosopagnosia and of normal face perception, are discussed.
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    • "Visual face perception and processing in the human brain is generally believed to be an efficient and fast-running multistage process [1], though this view has recently been challenged by Rossion et al. [2] who see evidence for a non-hierarchical face perception process. Many studies have tried to clarify the mechanisms of face detection, processing, categorization (male/female, old/young, emotion, attractiveness), memory and recognition, but still, many details of the functional and anatomical foundations remain obscure (for an overview see [3]). "
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    ABSTRACT: Empirical studies on the development of face processing skills with age show inconsistent patterns concerning qualitative vs. quantitative changes over time or the age range for peak cognitive performance. In the present study, we tested the proficiency in face detection and face categorization with a large sample of participants (N = 312; age range: 2-88 yrs). As test objects, we used so-called Mooney faces, two-tone (black and white) images of faces lacking critical information of a local, featural and relational nature, reflecting difficult real world face processing conditions. We found that performance in the assessment of gender and age from Mooney faces increases up to about age 15, and decreases from 65 years on. The implications of these findings are discussed in the light of classic and recent findings from face development literature.
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