Are alexithymia & prosopagnosia on a spectrum?

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whirlingmind
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01 Jun 2013, 5:18 am

I just wondered this because I never thought I had either of them, but am wondering if I have a subtle version of each.

I know prosopagnosia is face-blindness, and I can recognise people, but I have realised that many times, if I see a person out of context (e.g. elsewhere than the place I knew them from) I am unable to remember who they are, sometimes even their face doesn't look familiar, other times it looks vaguely familiar but I just cannot remember how or where I knew them from. It feels like there is a block in my brain when I try to remember. Is that just a normal thing for anyone or is it a mild form of prosopagnosia? I have also had people say "hello!" to me in a really familiar way before, they clearly knew me but I had no idea who they were, again, maybe that's normal to anyone, but I am now questioning it.

I never thought I had alexithymia, because I can easily identify if I am angry, sad, happy etc. However, I do have a great deal of trouble identifying other emotions, such as if something bothers or stresses me I can't always say why, it's like I don't really understand it myself to be able to explain it, I just know that it does bother me.

Possibly connected to this, is that until I joined WP, I didn't know that loads of traits I had were Asperger's traits, I realised I had Asperger's from discovering and reading about it, but it was a true revelation to me reading all this stuff on WP that was the same as me and which I would never have guessed were autistic traits. I felt, and still feel, that it's a surprise to me and had someone asked me what traits I had I would have struggled to identify them as I just knew they were normal for me and had never needed to identify them even to myself. I think this type of thing also made my first assessment very difficult, because if you cannot identify the things you feel and do to yourself, how can you explain them to others? I only knew what I had that matched the official descriptions of AS, but as we all know, there is a multitude more than that to it.

Do these sound like degrees of prosopagnosia and alexithymia?


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Persevero
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01 Jun 2013, 5:22 am

Whatever the first thing is called I have it too. I'm not diagnosed in either though so I can't help you



Verdandi
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01 Jun 2013, 7:29 am

I believe that developmental prosopagnosia is milder than prosopagnosia caused by traumatic brain injury.

I also think that it does have a spectrum, and I think that people with developmental prosopagnosia tend to develop recognition strategies of varying levels of complexity. I know that this, for me, makes it difficult for me to determine how severe it is for me, I try to pay attention to whether I recognize actors (for example) and how I establish that recognition - and TV shows and movies that either feature similar-appearing actors or have actors playing multiple roles - have been helpful for that. I still don't know if it's moderate or mild (it's not severe), but I am more aware of how I recognize people (establish context, check hair, listen to voice). When those fail, well... I can run into people I live with in the grocery store, after arriving with them, and not recognize them until they do something to identify themselves.

I'm not sure where I was going with that. It's a fascinating topic for me, though.

I do think alexithymia is on a spectrum and has different presentations.



Ettina
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01 Jun 2013, 10:05 am

They are both more common among AS people, but can also occur among people without AS.

Prosopagnosia can occur alone, or as part of AS, or as a result of a brain injury.

Alexithymia can occur secondarily to a wide variety of different issues, such as depression, dissociative disorders, schizophrenia, psychopathy, and so forth. AS is just one of the potential causes of alexithymia.

Incidentally, some developmental prosopagnosia is milder than traumatic prosopagnosia, but there are many cases of developmental prosopagnosia that are just as severe as traumatic prosopagnosia. And there are some cases of mild traumatic prosopagnosia. (Such as one woman who did not lose the ability to recognize previously familiar faces, but could no longer add faces to her database. Since she already knew the most important people in her life, this was not seriously impairing - although if it had been developmental it would have been.)



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01 Jun 2013, 10:17 am

I have a mild to moderate form of alexythimia, and a very mild form of prosopagnosia. About the first, it is hard for me to identify emotions right away, especially if I haven't experienced them before, and it takes some time before the emotional impact of some events fully hits me. About the second, I have trouble distinguishing between two strangers with similar faces, and in The Departed movie I thought Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio were the same character because I wasn't familiar with the first actor, but I usually don't have trouble with people I know in the acquaintance level.
I do wonder how AS correlates with this, I know other people in the spectrum with those two in varying degrees of severity.


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whirlingmind
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01 Jun 2013, 11:04 am

That's interesting, I always thought Matt Damon and Leonardo Di Caprio were really similar (although I knew they were different people) because they have a really similar look (around the eyes, that sort of narrow eyed look). The look less alike as they age, but I thought they were brothers initially.


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03 Jun 2013, 9:21 pm

My inability to tell apart actors such as Matt Damon and Leonardo Di Caprio has long been a source of amusement for my wife - since long before I realised I have AS (and a bit of prosopagnosia). Another pair I am hopeless with are Nicolas Cage and John Cusack. Also Lawrence Fishburn and Samual L Jackson...I could go on and on actualy as there are quite a few.

Two of my sisters-in-law had husbands in their fourties with similar builds and receeding hairlines - To this day I would not feel at all confident telling them apart without contextual clues.

Context can really throw me also. A long-haired guy I work with, who I have spoken with many times, started talking to me in the canteen a while back. Since we were in a different part of the building where I would not neccesarily be expecting to meet with him, and because he just had cut his hair short, it took me 2 days to figure out who it was I had been chatting to! I will also struggle if I unexpectedly bump into a friend or co-worker in the street. Disturbingly, it does not seem to matter much if I have seen the person hundreds of times and know them well - if it's unexpected I will still struggle.


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OddButWhy
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03 Jun 2013, 11:08 pm

I too have trouble recognizing people when they are out of context. I've been with other people who have alerted me that I just walked right past Susie or Ed or Bob. How many times it has happened when there has been no one present to point out my faux pas, I'll never know. Other times I get a feeling that I know someone, but can't figure out a name or where I've seen them before. If they see me and initiate an exchange, sometimes I'll figure out who they are from what topics they bring up, or the sound of their voice, or, if I'm lucky, they'll see the look of puzzlement on my face and introduce themselves, ("remember me? I'm Joan. I've lived next door to you for 12 years?"). Other times, I'll come away from the conversation still trying to remember who they are. Sometimes it eventually dawns, sometimes not. It makes small talk especially difficult when I can't engage them about their personal life, asking after their spouse, kids, dog, recovery from root canal, etc., all those things I've learned to minimally get by with.



marshall
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03 Jun 2013, 11:42 pm

If you can't come up with a single word because your emotions are mixed is this alexithymia?

I also get this deep trembly/itchy physical sensation I can't quite describe when I feel overstimulated. I might describe it as feeling "jittery" or "butterflies" but it isn't the same as emotional anxiety. It really comes off as an odd physical sensation that comes on steady and doesn't fluctuate quickly depending on my thoughts and my situation the way worry-driven anxiety does for me.



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04 Jun 2013, 5:53 am

whirlingmind wrote:
That's interesting, I always thought Matt Damon and Leonardo Di Caprio were really similar (although I knew they were different people) because they have a really similar look (around the eyes, that sort of narrow eyed look). The look less alike as they age, but I thought they were brothers initially.


I get a bit obsessed about this sort of thing. In some older threads I've posted comparison pictures of various actors I thought looked similar (or several pictures of the same actor that I could not recognize as the same person.

The first time I saw a picture of this actor in this role, I couldn't decide whether I was seeing Leo DiCaprio or Matt Damon.

Turns out it's Milla Jovovich as Joan of Arc.

Image

I found Inception extremely confusing because I couldn't tell who was supposed to be who.



PunitShah
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26 Jun 2013, 6:20 am

Hello all.

My first day on Wrong Planet and I am reading some fascinating stuff!!

There is currently no research to suggest that prosopagnosia and alexithymia are on a spectrum or explicitly related, but this is something that is definitely definitely worth investigation. We (see our website troublewithfaces dot org) are a group of researchers that investigate both prosopagnosia and alexithymia separately (often using experiments comprising emotional expressions). We are starting a new programme of research looking at difficulties with recognising facial expressions across a number of different conditions (e.g. autism, prosopagnosia, alexithymia) in order to better understand both, the brain mechanisms underlying face perception and also which atypicalities are (and are not) present in each condition. Also, this should tell us whether (and where) there may be overlap between different clinical conditions.

We are always looking for new participants in our research - particularly those living close to London. If anyone is interested, feel free to contact me (via forum or via our website).



kokopelli
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02 Dec 2017, 4:50 pm

PunitShah wrote:
Hello all.

My first day on Wrong Planet and I am reading some fascinating stuff!!

There is currently no research to suggest that prosopagnosia and alexithymia are on a spectrum or explicitly related, but this is something that is definitely definitely worth investigation. We (see our website troublewithfaces dot org) are a group of researchers that investigate both prosopagnosia and alexithymia separately (often using experiments comprising emotional expressions). We are starting a new programme of research looking at difficulties with recognising facial expressions across a number of different conditions (e.g. autism, prosopagnosia, alexithymia) in order to better understand both, the brain mechanisms underlying face perception and also which atypicalities are (and are not) present in each condition. Also, this should tell us whether (and where) there may be overlap between different clinical conditions.

We are always looking for new participants in our research - particularly those living close to London. If anyone is interested, feel free to contact me (via forum or via our website).


I would think that there is a spectrum of prosopagnosia considering that there are widely varying degrees of severity.

By the way, my youngest niece got married a few weeks ago. After the ceremony, there were some pictures of the family. I didn't realize that they were taking the pictures at first so I showed up after most had been taken but I was in some.

The other day I was looking at the pictures on her computer. I said that those pictures must have been from before I came in and joined the group since I wasn't in them. She responded by pointing me out in the pictures we were looking at.



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02 Dec 2017, 4:59 pm

Have you done the Cambridge Face Memory Test (http://www.bbk.ac.uk/psychology/psychol ... tartup.php)?

The average score is 80% and anything under 65% indicates possible face blindness. I scored 38%.
8)

The very fact that it's giving a numeric score rather than a simple yes or no sure seems to me like it would be a spectrum. Seems like 65% is probably just an arbitrary cutoff.


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kokopelli
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02 Dec 2017, 5:08 pm

SplendidSnail wrote:
Have you done the Cambridge Face Memory Test (http://www.bbk.ac.uk/psychology/psychol ... tartup.php)?

The average score is 80% and anything under 65% indicates possible face blindness. I scored 38%.
8)

The very fact that it's giving a numeric score rather than a simple yes or no sure seems to me like it would be a spectrum. Seems like 65% is probably just an arbitrary cutoff.


I got you beat. I got 39%.

I remember taking this before but I don't remember what I got that time.



kokopelli
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02 Dec 2017, 5:25 pm

There is some recent research at Ben-Gurion University by Gideon Rosenthal regarding the connection of facial processing areas in the brain.

For people who have a normal ability to recognize faces, the anterio temporal cortex appears to act as a hub connecting the various facial processing areas of the brain. For those with prosopagnosia, the different facial processing areas are apparently connected directly together instead of through the anterio temporal cortex. The more the areas are connected together directly, the more the problems with recognizing faces.

See http://reliawire.com/congenital-prosopagnosia-topology/

This could explain a lot.

If the anterio temporal cortex is damaged, either by disease or injury, then it seems likely that the ability to recognize faces could largely disappear very quickly. And that's pretty much what we see happening.

When my mother had Alzheimer's, she got to where she could only recognize my oldest brother and I and then only with great difficulty. She pretty much didn't know who anyone else. That used to really tick off one of my nephews who felt personally insulted that she couldn't recognize him. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I couldn't tell the difference between him and his younger brother unless they were standing besides him so that I could compare the two. And I had immense difficulty recognizing his two older boys, too.

And if the difference is due to additional connections bypassing the anterio temporal cortex, then we might still recognize someone based on one or two individual features but be unable to tie all the features in a face into one identity.