Own projects

Prosopagnosia - a window to face recognition

Prosopagnosia or face blindness is the inability to recognize a person by his face alone. Since we came across this phenomenon we systematically screen for prosopagnosics in order to describe the phenotype in detail, to assess the frequency in the general population, and to dissect the genetic basis. In genetic terms the prosopagnosics can serve as a model for "natural knock out humans" for face recognition.

Phenotype description

There are several forms of prosopagnosia. The acquired form after brain injuries, insult or encephalitis is thought to be the most common form. Loosing a skill one is immediately aware of it and so it is easily diagnosed
This is not the case in the congenital (inborn) form. People with this kind of prosopagnosia cannot easily tell faces apart. But beside this they have no other cognitive deficits. Hence, this form is quite unknown. Nevertheless we could show that there is a high frequency (prevalence) of 2%.

The genetic basis of prosopagnosia

Whenever we checked close relatives of a proband we found other impaired family members in the direct line. We therefore introduced the term hereditary prosopagnosia (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Omim).