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Views & Reviews Personal View

We need a simple test for prosopagnosia

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 23 March 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1736
  1. David R Fine, consultant gastroenterologist, Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust
  1. davidrfine{at}

He is a distinguished colleague and I am proud we are on first name terms: had I met him at the conference rather than the airport I would not have walked past. I was embarrassed, so my wife explained my problem, and his reply was unusual: “You must write a review for the BMJ so that others can understand your problem and benefit from your experience. Accounts of disability and how people cope are uplifting and help even those not afflicted.”

I have severe inherited (developmental) prosopagnosia, or face blindness. The term prosopagnosia was coined in 1947, but it has been widely recognised outside the context of brain injury only in the past decade. Its purest form is limited to facial recognition, but I also have problems with inanimate and animate objects and in interpreting facial signs of emotion and sex. I often fail to recognise my children or even my wife.

Prosopagnosia has shaped my life. At every stage I have failed to acknowledge friends and, more distressingly, those …

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