Describe and evaluate explanations for prosopagnosia

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Describe and evaluate explanations of prosopagnosia.

Prosopagnosia is a condition in which an individual exhibits a profound inability to recognise faces, the individual cannot put features together as a whole unit to form and recognise a face. To facilitate recognition, individuals with prosopagnosia rely on other cues to identify another individual such as voice, clothing or other distinctive features which are available. Prosopagnosia has two forms, the first is acquired prosopagnosia, this is where the condition arises due to brain damage suffered after maturity from either head trauma, stroke or degenerative disease, the individual had normal facial recognition abilities that were then impaired. Developmental prosopagnosia is when the onset of the disorder occurs prior to developing normal face recognition abilities (this is reached during the teenage years). Developmental prosopagnosia applies to three types of individuals with the condition; those whose prosopagnosia is genetic, those with brain damage prior to facial experience (e.g. prenatal brain damage) and those who experienced brain damage or severe problems during childhood. All explanations covered here propose that a given element of the face recognition system is dysfunctional.

The first explanation of prosopagnosia is that it is a result of impaired neurology. Prosopagnosia has been associated with damage to the fusiform face area, especially the one in the right hemisphere, for two reasons. The first reason being that prosopagnosics typically have damage to this brain area and second, the fusiform gyrus is generally more active when individuals are engaged in face, rather than object recognition. For example, Downing et al (2006) reported that the fusiform face area responded significantly more strongly to faces than either to scenes, or 18 object categories such as fruit and tools.

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 A weakness of the fusiform face area hypothesis is that research has provided conflicting evidence for this region being associated exclusively with faces. For instance, using functional magnetic resonance imaging, Gauthier et al (2000) found the area to be active when participants identified the type of bird or car presented and thus concluded the fusiform area is not face specific. Another weakness is that although the fusiform face area is associated with face memory, this does not mean it is responsible for facial memory. It is quite possible that the area is a neurological relay point which passes ...

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