Left hemisphere abnormalities in developmental prosopagnosia when looking at faces but not words

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • Christian Gerlach
  • Solja K Klargaard
  • Dag Alnæs
  • Knut K Kolskår
  • Jens Karstoft
  • Lars T Westlye
  • Starrfelt, Randi
Developmental prosopagnosia is a disorder characterized by profound and lifelong difficulties with face recognition in the absence of sensory or intellectual deficits or known brain injury. While there has been a surge in research on developmental prosopagnosia over the last decade and a half, the cognitive mechanisms behind the disorder and its neural underpinnings remain elusive. Most recently it has been proposed that developmental prosopagnosia may be a manifestation of widespread disturbance in neural migration which affects both face responsive brain regions as well as other category-sensitive visual areas. We present a combined behavioural and functional MRI study of face, object and word processing in a group of developmental prosopagnosics (N = 15). We show that developmental prosopagnosia is associated with reduced activation of core ventral face areas during perception of faces. The reductions were bilateral but tended to be more pronounced in the left hemisphere. As the first study to address category selectivity for word processing in developmental prosopagnosia, we do not, however, find evidence for reduced activation of the visual word form area during perception of orthographic material. We also find no evidence for reduced activation of the lateral occipital complex during perception of objects. These imaging findings correspond well with the behavioural performance of the developmental prosopagnosics, who show severe impairment for faces but normal reading and recognition of line drawings. Our findings suggest that a general deficit in neural migration across ventral occipito-temporal cortex is not a viable explanation for developmental prosopagnosia. The finding of left hemisphere involvement in our group of developmental prosopagnosics was at first surprising. However, a closer look at existing studies shows similar, but hitherto undiscussed, findings. These left hemisphere abnormalities seen in developmental prosopagnosia contrasts with lesion and imaging studies suggesting primarily right hemisphere involvement in acquired prosopagnosia, and this may reflect that the left hemisphere is important for the development of a normal face recognition network.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfcz034
JournalBrain Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2019

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Social Sciences - developmental prosopagnosia, face recognition, object recognition, reading, the visual word form area

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