For the first time ever, scientists were able to discover why some people have a hard time recognizing faces and other visual objects, even if they are already familiar.
Scientifically termed as Congenital prosopagnosia (cPA) or congenital face blindness, this condition was found to have been caused by events that occurred in the early phase of the perceptual process.
Individuals with cPA experience impairments in familiar face recognition despite the absence of cerebral lesions. Such puzzling idea puts face processing regulation in hot and controversial waters. Despite the buzz, significant neural alterations in patients have not yet been identified via electrophysiological techniques.
For a new study, German researchers enrolled a control group composed of 16 individuals and a target group comprised of 13 participants. All the study subjects had normal vision.
The authors performed two experiments. For the first one, the study subjects looked at grayscale images of unfamiliar faces and houses. About 85 percent of the face and house stimuli were stationary non-targets and the remaining 15 percent were moving targets.
For experiment two, the participants were asked to answer exclusively when a rare famous face or popular house appears in between a sequence of unfamiliar faces and houses. The researchers utilized unfamiliar non-targets to cut off a confounding observation-based proposition due to existing hypothesis that patients with cPA have dysfunctional neural presentation of familiar faces.
The authors then used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to identify the magnetic indication of cortical activity.
The findings of the test showed that life-long exposure to other people does not improve the face recognition abilities of patients with cPA. With this, the authors suggest that the root causes of the condition are divided into unique, closed regions thus hindering other brain areas to take over and compensate.
"In such a model, congenital prosopagnosia and unimpaired face processing represent two sides of the same coin," the authors wrote.
In the future, studies should focus on the definitive process that transpire between the relevant mechanisms. Aside from its relevance to human cognitive understanding, such researches can also serve as a biological inspiration in the improvement of robotics and other technological systems.
The study was published in the journal PLOS One.