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Carnegie Mellon scientists offer explanation for 'face blindness'
Date:11/25/2008

PITTSBURGHFor the first time, scientists have been able to map the disruption in neural circuitry of people suffering from congenital prosopagnosia, sometimes known as face blindness, and have been able to offer a biological explanation for this intriguing disorder.

Currently thought to affect roughly two percent of the population, congenital prosopagnosia manifests as the lifelong failure to recognize faces in the absence of obvious neurological damage, and in individuals with intact vision and intelligence.

Studying subjects aged 33 to 72 using diffusion tensor imaging and tractography, the team of scientists from Carnegie Mellon University, Kings College in London and Ben-Gurion University in Israel were able to show that, unlike that of normal brains, there was a reduction in the integrity of the white matter tracts in the brains of individuals with congenital prosopagnosic. Moreover, the extent of the reduced white matter circuitry was related to the severity of the behavioral impairment.

The results are reported in the Nov. 23 online issue of Nature Neuroscience.

White matter is one of the three main solid components of the central nervous system. The white matter is the tissue through which messages pass between different areas of grey matter within the nervous system. People with congenital prosopagnosia are not able to recognize faces, while the ability to recognize other objects may be relatively intact.

This discovery of reduced white matter circuitry could also lead to further understanding of other neurodevelopment disorders, such as developmental dyslexia, in which the same underlying neural alterations might be present. The findings are also important as congenital prosopagnosia is, in many cases, inherited and so studies of this sort can help us understand the relationship between genetics and cortical development.

So far, few successful therapies have been developed for affect
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Contact: Ken Walters
walters1@andrew.cmu.edu
412-268-2900
Carnegie Mellon University
Source:Eurekalert

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