If you can’t recognize faces after stroke, you might suffer from an uncommon stroke side effect called prosopagnosia.
Can’t Recognize Faces After Stroke?
We’ve heard stories from stroke survivors who are deeply disturbed when they can’t seem to recognize their own family’s faces.
Although this might seem like a memory problem, it’s a recognition problem that has its own name: prosopagnosia, also known as “face blindness” or “facial agnosia.”
Prosopagnosia is a neurological disorder that impairs your ability to recognize faces. About 2-3% of the population has this disorder.
Facial recognition is controlled by many parts of the brain, but especially the temporal lobe. If you had a stroke that affected the temporal lobe, then you might have prosopagnosia.
Severity of Prosopagnosia
The inability to recognize faces can range from mild to severe.
In mild cases of prosopagnosia, you might have trouble recognizing very familiar faces like family members.
In more severe cases, you might not be able to discriminate between anyone’s face – familiar and unfamiliar alike.
And in very severe cases, people with prosopagnosia cannot distinguish between a face and an object.
Treatment for Prosopagnosia
Unfortunately, there are no clinically validated treatments available for prosopagnosia. (But we’ll discuss a non-clinically validated treatment next!)
Without treatment, the best way to cope with prosopagnosia is with compensation techniques like association.
For example, family members can be recognized by their voices instead of their faces. Or at social events, you can make note of what people are wearing and associate names with clothes.
By using association to compensate for not recognizing faces, you can make life with prosopagnosia easier.
Hope for Prosopagnosia
In a previous article, we mentioned that the best treatment for stroke is massed practice. Whatever you repeatedly practice is what your brain gets better at.
For example, if you practice moving your leg over and over and over, then you will strengthen the connections in your brain that control leg movement. With lots of repetition and consistency, your leg movement will improve as a result.
Can we apply this concept to prosopagnosia? Maybe.
While there are no studies on using repetition to cure prosopagnosia, we’d like to share the idea in case it helps you.
Practicing Facial Recognition
The idea is that if you practice recognizing faces, you will get better at recognizing faces.
When you practice recognizing faces, specific neurons in your brain will fire. The more these neurons fire together, the stronger their connections will become.
If you can practice this enough, then your facial recognition might improve. We can’t promise anything, because this has not been studied, but it’s a good reason to hold out hope.
If you’re interested in trying this approach, some ways to practice facial recognition are at social gatherings. You can try to guess faces and have a close friend or family member whisper names into your ear.
You can also try online games to practice facial recognition and see if it helps.
This treatment option is pure speculation on our part. We’re not sure if it works, but it could be worth a shot if you’d really like to improve your condition.
If you decide to give it a try, be sure to try it for long enough, because it takes consistency to rewire your brain!
The inability to recognize faces after stroke is a neurological condition known as prosopagnosia.
While there are no treatments for prosopagnosia, compensation techniques, like association, can help you cope.
You can also try practicing facial recognition to see if that helps rewire your brain and improve this stroke side effect.