Roundtable discussion on Prosopagnosia

BU’s Centre for Face Processing Disorders is hosting a Roundtable discussion in the House of Commons on 12 June 2014 to seek support to establish an All Parliamentary Group on Prosopagnosia.

Prosopagnosia, or ‘face blindness’, is the inability to recognise faces and psychosocial consequences of the condition are thought to be equal to those observed by people with dyslexia or stuttering.

Director of the Centre, Dr Sarah Bate said: “Prosopagnosia can be as severe as not being able to recognise your own child at the school gate or even to pick out your own face from a line-up of photos. In extreme cases people can withdraw socially, become depressed, leave their job, or suffer endless embarrassment.”

There is little to no professional support for people with prosopagnosia, which BU researchers are hoping to address on 12 June 2014.

“We’re hoping the Routable discussion will result in an All Parliamentary Group for Prosopagnosia being formed,” explains Dr Bate. “This will increase awareness among those best placed to make policy decisions in a whole range of areas, including health, education and employment. As leading researchers in this field, we’ll also be well placed to inform any discussions and provide advice.”

The Centre for Face Processing Disorders is the only place in the UK treating prosopagnosia. It was set up in 2012 and has two main goals:

  • To conduct research to better understand prosopagnosia, the impact it has on sufferers and how to treat the condition
  • To raise awareness of the condition so people get the help and recognition they so desperately need.

The Centre offers diagnosis, cognitive training to improve face recognition and the first ever clinical treatment for the condition, by inhalation of the hormone oxytocin, which provides a short term improvement. This was successfully trialled last year and published in Cortex.

Dr Bate has been working with NHS Choices to have prosopagnosia added to their A–Z of conditions. In July last year Norman Lamb MP committed to this in the House of Commons in response to Tobias Ellwood’s written question. This will help to increase understanding among the general public.

Dr Bate says: “Prosopagnosia affects people’s education, working life and relationships. Ideally we think prosopagnosia should be covered in GP training, teacher training and in school special needs provision. Only then will people really get the recognition and support they so desperately need. ”

Parliamentarians wishing to attend the Routable discussion in the House of Commons on 12 June 2014 can find out more by emailing Dr Sarah Bate.