Face and Word Recognition Can Be Selectively Affected by Brain Injury or Developmental Disorders

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Face and word recognition have traditionally been thought to rely on highly specialised and relatively independent cognitive processes. Some of the strongest evidence for this has come from patients with seemingly category-specific visual perceptual deficits such as pure prosopagnosia, a selective face recognition deficit, and pure alexia, a selective word recognition deficit. Together, the patterns of impaired reading with preserved face recognition and impaired face recognition with preserved reading constitute a double dissociation. The existence of these selective deficits has been questioned over the past decade. It has been suggested that studies describing patients with these pure deficits have failed to measure the supposedly preserved functions using sensitive enough measures, and that if tested using sensitive measurements, all patients with deficits in one visual category would also have deficits in the other. The implications of this would be immense, with most textbooks in cognitive neuropsychology requiring drastic revisions. In order to evaluate the evidence for dissociations, we review studies that specifically investigate whether face or word recognition can be selectively affected by acquired brain injury or developmental disorders. We only include studies published since 2004, as comprehensive reviews of earlier studies are available. Most of the studies assess the supposedly preserved functions using sensitive measurements. We found convincing evidence that reading can be preserved in acquired and developmental prosopagnosia and also evidence (though weaker) that face recognition can be preserved in acquired or developmental dyslexia, suggesting that face and word recognition are at least in part supported by independent processes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1547
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Pages (from-to)1-6
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sep 2017

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Social Sciences - visual perception, prosopagnosia, alexia, face recognition, word recognition, reading, hemispheric specialisation

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