Visual expertise in the absence of holistic processing in congenital prosopagnosia

N Weiss, E Mardo, G Avidan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: A major question in face perception is whether faces comprise a distinct visual category that is processed by specialized cognitive and neural mechanisms, or whether face processing merely represent an extreme case of visual expertise. Method: Here, we address this issue, by studying O.H, 22 years old woman with congenital prosopagnosia (CP), a lifelong impairment in face perception in the absence of an obvious brain damage. Interestingly, despite her deficit, O.H reported having superior recognition skills for horses, due to her work with horses since she was 7 years old. To examine her holistic perceptionwith faces and horses,we used the inversion effect, i.e. better performance for upright compared to inverted faces, which is a well-established indication of holistic face processing. We conducted an identical task for horses, and used response time, accuracy and eye movement data as dependent measures. O.H performance was compared to data obtained from two age and gender-matched control groups each including 10 participants that were either horse experts, having 7-23 years of experience with horses or non-experts. Results: As expected, both control groups exhibited the face inversion effect, while O.H did not show the effect. As for horses, O.H. exhibited superior performance for upright horses compared to upright faces, but this was not qualified by an inversion effect for horses. Similarly, neither of the control groups exhibited an inversion effect for horses. Interestingly, gaze behaviour toward upright and inverted horses was indicative of horse expertise. Particularly, non-experts tended to focus their gaze towards the upper part of image of the horse, while in contrast, experts and O.H focused their gaze towards the head, regardless of image orientation. Conclusions: these results suggest that visual expertise can be acquired independently from the mechanisms mediating face recognition and is not necessarily dependent on holistic processing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S130
JournalJournal of Molecular Neuroscience
Volume53
StatePublished - 2014

Keywords

  • Israel
  • Italy
  • brain damage
  • control group
  • eye movement
  • female
  • gaze
  • gender
  • horse
  • human
  • processing
  • prosopagnosia
  • response time
  • skill
  • society

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