BREAKING! Long COVID-19 News: U.S. Study Reveals that SARS-CoV-2 Infections Can Lead To Prosopagnosia Or 'Face Blindness’!
Long COVID-19 News
: A new study by researchers from Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire USA has found that SARS-Cov-2 infections can lead to individuals developing visual impairments including prosopagnosia!
Prosopagnosia (also known as face blindness or facial agnosia) is a neurological disorder characterized by the inability to recognize faces. There is no treatment for the condition.
The main symptom of prosopagnosia is having difficulty recognizing faces. One can still see the parts of a face normally, but all faces may look the same.
It affects individuals differently. Some may not be able to tell the difference between strangers or people they do not know well. Others may not recognize the faces of friends and family, or even their own face.
Other symptoms of prosopagnosia can include difficulty with:
-recognizing emotions on people's faces
-recognizing people's age and gender
-recognizing characters and following plots in TV programmes or films
-recognizing other things, such as cars or animals
-finding one’s way around
The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has caused a global pandemic and has been linked to various physical and health conditions and symptoms. However, recent research suggests that COVID-19 can also lead to psychological problems, including loss of smell and taste, long-lasting memory impairments, speech and language impairments, and even psychosis.
This study cum case report is the first to highlight the occurrence prosopagnosia, or face blindness, following symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and also in Long COVID
The study team reported the case of a 28-year-old female patient identified as Annie who had no history of face recognition difficulties prior to contracting COVID-19 in March 2020. Two months later, Annie a customer service representative and part-time portrait artist, began to experience symptom relapses and noticed difficulties in recognizing faces. Tests of both familiar and unfamiliar face recognition showed clear impairments, while Annie performed normally on tests assessing face detection, face identity perception, object recognition, scene recognition, and non-visual memory. She also reported that her navigational abilities have worsened significantly since becoming ill.
Interestingly, navigational deficits are known to co-occur with prosopagnosia, and Annie’s case seems to suggest that COVID-19 can produce severe and selective neuropsychological impairment similar to deficits seen following brain damage.
Self-report survey data from 54 respondents with long COVID showed that a majority reported reductions in visual recognition and navigation abilities, supporting the notion that high-level visual impairments are not uncommon in people with long COVID.
The study team concluded COVID-19 appears to have far-reaching effects beyond the physical symptoms traditionally associated with the virus. Emerging evidence suggests that COVID-19 can lead to various psychological problems, including prosopagnosia, which is characterized by face blindness. Annie's case
highlights the potential long-lasting cognitive impairments caused by COVID-19, and suggests that further research is needed to fully understand the implications of the virus on the brain and behavior.
The study findings were published in the peer reviewed journal: Cortex.
Lead author Marie-Luise Kieseler, a graduate student in the department of psychological and brain sciences and member of the Social Perception Lab at Dartmouth told Long COVID news reporter from TMN, "When we first met Annie, she told us that she was unable to recognize the faces of her family. Annie recounted the time when she was at a restaurant meeting her family for the first time after having COVID-19. She didn't recognize them, and when she walked past them again, her father called out to her.”
Annie also chipped in and said, "It was as if my dad's voice came out of a stranger's face." Annie says she now relies on voices to recognize people that she knows.
Annie said that she also experienced navigational deficits after having COVID-19. She has had difficulty remembering where particular sections in her grocery store are and relies on Google maps and its pin function to remember where she parks her car.
Senior author, Dr Brad Duchaine, a professor of psychological and brain sciences and principal investigator of the Social Perception Lab at Dartmouth added, "The combination of prosopagnosia and navigational deficits that Annie had is something that caught our attention because the two deficits often go hand in hand after somebody either has had brain damage or developmental deficits. That co-occurrence is probably due to the two abilities depending on neighboring brain regions in the temporal lobe."
The study team conducted a series of diagnostics and tests with Annie to evaluate her problems with face recognition and determine whether she also has difficulties with other perceptual or cognitive abilities.
It was found that recognizing familiar and learning the identities of unfamiliar faces was especially challenging for Annie. For one of the tests, Annie was sequentially presented with 60 images of celebrity faces and was asked to name them. Afterward, she was presented with a list of the celebrities featured in the test to see if she knew them. Annie correctly identified 29% of the 48 celebrities whom she was familiar with as compared to most people, who can correctly identify 84% of familiar celebrities.
Another test conducted was a doppelganger test. Annie was shown a celebrity's name and then presented with images of two faces: the face of a celebrity and that of someone similar, and was then asked to identify which face was the famous person. She identified the celebrity in 69% of the 58 trials, as compared to 87% in the control group.
Her limited ability to learn and then recognize unfamiliar faces was demonstrated using the Cambridge Face Memory Test. In the test, participants learn six men's faces and then they are asked to discriminate between the learned faces and other faces. On average, people are usually able to identify 80% correctly while Annie was only able to identify 56% correctly.
Kieseler added, "The results from the test with unfamiliar faces show that it wasn't just that Annie couldn't recall the name or biographical information of a famous person that she was familiar with, but she really has trouble learning new identities.”
Annie’s test scores in face detection, face identity perception, and object recognition were normal, indicating respectively, that Annie's problems with faces are due to face memory deficits and are not a more generalized impairment.
Interestingly, Annie had flawless test scores in scene processing. When she was shown a set of landscapes and was then shown them again with a new set, she made no errors in identifying the landscapes she had been previously shown.
Dr Duchaine explained, "It's likely, therefore, that her navigational impairments result from processes that might contribute to cognitive map representation rather than scene recognition deficits. This sort of dissociation like we're seeing in Annie is seen in some individuals who have navigational deficits, where they can recognize where they are but when they're asked where another place is relative to where they are right now, they struggle.
Dr Duchaine further added, "Such individuals have trouble understanding relationships between different places, which is a step beyond recognizing the place that you're in."
It was also found that Annie also did really well in voice recognition tests in comparison to the controls, so the study team thinks that her problems with face processing are mostly likely due to a deficit within the visual system.
Dr Duchaine said, "It's been known that there are broad cognitive problems that can be caused by COVID-19, but here we're seeing severe and highly selective problems in Annie and that suggests there might be a lot of other individuals who have quite severe and selective deficits following COVID."
In order to determine if other individuals also have experienced perception, recognition, and navigational problems due to long COVID, the study team obtained self-reported data from 54 individuals who had long COVID with symptoms for 12 weeks or more; and 32 persons who had reported that they had fully recovered from COVID-19.
All the respondents were asked to rate themselves on statements about their visual perception and cognitive functioning, such as whether they could track characters on TV or navigate their environment, before and after they had contracted COVID-19.
The study team measured the change in the before-and-after ratings and compared results of the long COVID group to that of the fully recovered COVID group.
Kieseler commented, "Most respondents with long COVID reported that their cognitive and perceptual abilities had decreased since they had COVID, which was not surprising, but what was really fascinating was how many respondents reported deficits. It was not just a small concentration of really impaired cases but a broad majority of individual in the long COVID group reported noticeable difficulties doing things that they were able to do before contracting COVID-19 without any problems."
Dr Duchaine, who is also the co-founder of faceblind.org said, "One of the challenges that many respondents reported was a difficulty with visualizing family and friends, which is something that we often hear from prosopagnosics. Our study highlights the sorts of perceptual problems with face recognition and navigation that can be caused by COVID-19.”
Dr Duchaine stressed, “It's something that people should be aware of, especially physicians and other health care professionals."
Dr Duchaine further added, "As far as we know, nobody's measured the sorts of high level, visual processing abilities that are affected by COVID-19 that we focused on here in this study, so if it's happening in the visual system, it's likely that selective deficits due to problems in other brain areas are occurring in some individuals as well."
The study findings highlight the need for healthcare professions to be aware that many Long COVID individuals can suffer from visual impairments and cognitive deficits including prosopagnosia and that proper diagnostics and testing should be conducted to identify issues that they are having.
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