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Holistic face training enhances face processing in developmental prosopagnosia

Joseph DeGutis, Sarah Cohan, Ken Nakayama
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/awu062 1781-1798 First published online: 1 April 2014

Summary

Prosopagnosia has largely been regarded as an untreatable disorder. However, recent case studies using cognitive training have shown that it is possible to enhance face recognition abilities in individuals with developmental prosopagnosia. Our goal was to determine if this approach could be effective in a larger population of developmental prosopagnosics. We trained 24 developmental prosopagnosics using a 3-week online face-training program targeting holistic face processing. Twelve subjects with developmental prosopagnosia were assessed before and after training, and the other 12 were assessed before and after a waiting period, they then performed the training, and were then assessed again. The assessments included measures of front-view face discrimination, face discrimination with view-point changes, measures of holistic face processing, and a 5-day diary to quantify potential real-world improvements. Compared with the waiting period, developmental prosopagnosics showed moderate but significant overall training-related improvements on measures of front-view face discrimination. Those who reached the more difficult levels of training (‘better’ trainees) showed the strongest improvements in front-view face discrimination and showed significantly increased holistic face processing to the point of being similar to that of unimpaired control subjects. Despite challenges in characterizing developmental prosopagnosics’ everyday face recognition and potential biases in self-report, results also showed modest but consistent self-reported diary improvements. In summary, we demonstrate that by using cognitive training that targets holistic processing, it is possible to enhance face perception across a group of developmental prosopagnosics and further suggest that those who improved the most on the training task received the greatest benefits.

  • developmental prosopagnosia
  • computer-based cognitive remediation
  • configural/holistic processing
  • Abbreviations
    CFMT
    Cambridge Face Memory Test
    CFPT
    Cambridge Face Perception Test
    FOBPT
    Faces-Objects-Bodies Perception Task
    FWMT
    Face Working Memory Test
    PFST
    Philadelphia Face Similarity Test
    PWFT
    Part-Whole Face Task
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