Processing Faces in Alzheimer’s Disease Patients: How a Familiar Face Becomes Unfamiliar
Keywords:Alzheimer's, Dementia, Face recognition, Theory of Mind
Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, is the most pervasive form of dementia worldwide. Impairment in face processing is a common trait of the disorder, causing a deficit not only in the processing of emotional expressions, but also causes a deficit in face recognition. Research into the neural causes of impaired face recognition in Alzheimer’s disease patients has found several factors at play: Abnormal temporal lobe activation in response to familiar faces, a breakdown in holistic processing of faces due to changes in frontal lobe activation, and atrophy of areas of the brain implicated in theory of mind. These neural changes are evident long prior to any differences in behavior. Due to the progressive nature of Alzheimer’s disease, patients will display increasing levels of impairment in face recognition over time. At the final stages of the disorder, patients lose all ability to recognize familiar faces, and most strikingly, lose the ability to self-recognize. Further research on face recognition in Alzheimer’s disease may improve our knowledge both in neurotypical face recognition, as well as aid in discovering novel ways of helping patients cope with their symptoms.
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