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article imageFace Blindness

By Aaron Robson     Feb 6, 2007 in Health
Imagine an entire day of seeing faces -- friends, co-workers, even family -- but not being able to retain those images in your mind. For 48-year-old Kiki Latimer, each time she sees someone is often like the first time. She has face blindness.
She first started to realized she had a problem in her early 20s. While working at a youth hostel. "One particular guest came back every week, and every time I didn't recognize him. He started to look at me like I was a fruitcake."
Face blindness is also known as prosopagnosia. It is an impairment in the ability to recognize faces. Usually prosopagnosics are able to actually see the features on a person's visage with no difficulty; it is the retention of those images that challenges them. So in other words, the person will not be able to recognize the same person twice.
Most of us have difficulty recognizing a face at one time or another. But prosopagnosics have trouble identifying others whom they have met repeatedly, or even lifelong acquaintances, this is also including close friends or family members.
"When I was younger I remember saying 'that's not me' when I looked in the mirror," recalls Latimer. "I remember thinking it was just something weird."
Originally most scientists thought that face blindness was an extremely rare disease. But in August 2006, a German study in the American Journal of Medical Genetics found that as many as one in 50 people may have some form of prosopagnosia. A separate Web survey of 1,600 people done by Harvard University's Ken Nakayama and University College of London researchers substantiates the German study findings.
Until a medical treatment is found, prosopagnosics must continue to rely on common cues including hairstyle, body language or voice recognition to get by.
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