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Deficits in Long-Term Recognition Memory Reveal Dissociated Subtypes in Congenital Prosopagnosia
Rainer Stollhoff, Jürgen Jost, Tobias Elze and Ingo Kennerknecht
The study investigates long-term recognition memory in congenital prosopagnosia (CP), a lifelong impairment in face identification that is present from birth. Previous investigations of processing deficits in CP have mostly relied on short-term recognition tests to estimate the scope and severity of individual deficits. We firstly report on a controlled test of long-term (one year) recognition memory for faces and objects conducted with a large group of participants with CP. Long-term recognition memory is significantly impaired in eight CP participants (CPs). In all but one case, this deficit was selective to faces and didn't extend to intra-class recognition of object stimuli. In a test of famous face recognition, long-term recognition deficits were less pronounced, even after accounting for differences in media consumption between controls and CPs. Secondly, we combined test results on long-term and short-term recognition of faces and objects, and found a large heterogeneity in severity and scope of individual deficits. Analysis of the observed heterogeneity revealed a dissociation of CP into subtypes with a homogeneous phenotypical profile. Thirdly, we found that among CPs self-assessment of real-life difficulties, based on a standardized questionnaire, and experimentally assessed face recognition deficits are strongly correlated. Our results demonstrate that controlled tests of long-term recognition memory are needed to fully assess face recognition deficits in CP. Based on controlled and comprehensive experimental testing, CP can be dissociated into subtypes with a homogeneous phenotypical profile. The CP subtypes identified align with those found in prosopagnosia caused by cortical lesions; they can be interpreted with respect to a hierarchical neural system for face perception.