chapter  3
24 Pages

The Cognitive Locus of Prosopagnosia

The inability to recognize faces, especially the most familiar, is a pathological disorder that has not received systematic attention for a very long time, although in recent years it once again has aroused strong theoretical interest. The clinical picture usually given of face agnosia is, unfortunately, most complex, especially because of various associated disorders that make it difficult to grasp clearly (defects in body schema and color perception, for example). The fact is that Bodamer (1947) made a remarkably daring, almost rash, move in isolating the syndrome of prosopagnosia. The theoretical problem is complicated even further by the fact that "pure" cases of prosopagnosia are extremely rare and to date fewer than 100 detailed case records are available for study. Finally, though prosopagnosia is predominantly associated with lesional damage to the occipitotemporal area of the right hemisphere, there exist anatomical variations determined by whether, for instance, damage is bilateral or not or whether the integrity of the visual field is preserved or not (Bruyer, 1983; Bruyer & Velge, 1980; Hecaen, 1981; Rondot & Tzavaras, 1969). Such neurological observations are, moreover, consistent with various experimental evidence of the importance, if not the exclusive role, of the right hemisphere for the recognition of faces in normal subjects (Bradshaw & Nettleton, 1981; Bruyer, 1980a, 1980b; Bruyer & Gadisseux, 1980; Ellis, 1983; Hay, 1981; Versace & Tiberghien, 1985), or subjects that have undergone right temporal lobotomy (Milner, 1968), or a cerebral commisurotomy (Gazzaniga & Smylie, 1983).