Monday, January 26, 2009

Prosopagnosia - Forgetting Faces

Forgetting Your Own Face - Prosopagnosia
A Case Study

By Huw Jones (BBC News, 25 July 2006)

What is it like to look at your children or husband and not recognise them? One woman is fighting to overcome the disturbing effects of a virus that struck entirely without warning.
When Claire looks into the eyes of her children, it is a moment of profound confusion.
The 45-year-old mother of four suffers from prosopagnosia, sometimes known as face blindness. She cannot recognise the faces of her children, her husband or even herself, after a virus struck little more than two years ago, causing inflammation in her brain and permanently harming the temporal lobe.
The loss of key parts of Claire's memory has proved traumatic and has profoundly disrupted the sort of relationships most of us take for granted. Every day is a battle.
"I find it very difficult just living my everyday life. I go up to the village or out to the school and they say hello to me, how are you. I haven't got a clue who they are or how I know them," Claire says.
But given the correct trigger, she can sometimes put a name to a face, says clinical neuropsychologist Bonnie-Kate Dewar, who is helping Claire with the condition.
"Claire may see someone in her village and not be able to recognise them from their face," explains Ms Dewar. "But when they say 'oh yes but I'm so-and-so and I live here', sometimes that may actually put the connection back together and she's able to recognise and know that person."
Yet prompting doesn't always work - suggesting that, for some faces, the knowledge of that person has been wholly lost, or sits in a deeper recess of the brain.
"What I really need is their whole identity not just their name," says Claire. "They might say to me what their name is and it still means nothing to me."
Although scientists can describe Claire's condition, they are powerless to cure her.
One problem that looms large is that researchers are still arguing about how memory works on even the most basic level - such as what happens when we create or recall a memory.
Some believe memories are stored inside our brain cells, others that they are encoded in the connections between them. But how our memories stay put, and why things are forgotten, are burning issues.
A lot of what we think of as lost memories are still in the brain somewhere. We might struggle to recall the name of the person we met at the office party last week but find it much easier to select the right answer from a multiple choice quiz down the pub. In effect we forget, until something jogs our memory.
But Claire's virus means whole areas of memory have been wiped or are inaccessible. And her condition underlines how crucial memory is to our everyday lives, says Ms Dewar.
"So much of our relationships are dependent on our memories and our history with people," says Ms Dewar, "and with Claire it has had a particularly difficult impact because this is where her difficulty lies."
Identity, says Claire, means more than just a name.
"It means a whole person, how we know each other, how we shared times, knowledge, understanding, caring. It's very meaningful. We just take it for granted if we're given a name that we think 'oh yes you're the person' and you don't even have to think it through but that's just gone from me."
With Ms Dewar's help, Claire is working on compensatory memory strategies; working around the damaged parts of her brain using techniques such as learning and problem solving.
How does it work?
"Pat, one of [Claire's] friends delivers eggs and Pat has a bright red beard so she is able to use his beard in a problem-solving way to say well this is who he might be," says Ms Dewar. "She also uses context to identify her family members. When one of her sons is playing football, she looks at the number on his back and is able to follow him that way."
Home videos of Claire's family have allowed her to access some of her past life which she has lost. But that can only partially fill small gaps in the entire history of her family life, bringing up four children.
Claire's husband, Ed, says he's now well used to raking over past family memories in a bid to help his wife.
"You do it to make decisions, to go back and do things you enjoyed before. It marks out how your relationship grows," he says.
Another aid is what Claire calls her friendship book.
"I've made this special book and Bonnie-Kate has helped me to write down the name of somebody, their family, where they live, special things, where we met, the things in life that we shared, that mean we know each other. So their identity out of nothing is there and once I've got it written down I can re-use it."
Claire describes it as "like finding myself".
"We went camping," says Claire reading from the friendship book, "and had a gale in the night and flooding and they lost their tent and ended up crammed in the car. Lovely memories like that I've put in the book."
"Caroline isn't just a name. She is here in my friendship book and we belong to each other as friends and that whole feeling, meaningfulness of identity, not just of my friend but of myself and how we fit together has been so drastically lost that I can't tell you how important it has been to write these things down about people and share special memories while we've been doing it.
>>> our kampong folks may not be hardcore alcoholics like the mat salleh but majority are heavy smokers of rokok daun pucuk dengan tembakau mentah goreng sendiri with relatively high toxicity, and makan sireh gobek, also very intoxicating, and both these snacks may certainly affect the brain cells <<<
(just for academic reading?)
posting “The “old” older generation”
……some years ago during 'tahlil kubur' (annual saying prayers at the kampong grave sites, where most of our older generations including our parents probably are buried) on the second day of Eidil Fitri,
an 'old' old friend and I asked a young boy "Whose son are you?" And he replied "Pak Cik ni siapa?" (Uncle, who are you?). We were taken aback but we just laughed it off ……..
the problem of some of us (young and old alike, age is not the determining factor) not being able to recognize faces, although we have seen these faces before, may possibly be due to a medical condition, but we are too “primitive” in our thinking/perception to be able to fathom that “problem” deeper, to most of us, well we are old already, naturally we are not able any more to recognize (or remember) faces, and connect it to some identity (a person)…any basis?
this is just my pondering…
may Allah bless us with longevity until we become centenarians like Hj Sabudin (of Ulu Lanjut), any other known centenarians in Kg Lipat Kajang, Pahang?
…so that we will live long enough to be able to do something for Kg Lipat Kajang Pahang, and leave this piece of land we all love as a better place of abode for our future generations (our descendents)…

Lipat Kajang people (or decendents) are encouraged to participate& contribute (Orang Lipat Kajang, atau keturunan, di jemput memberi sumbangan idea)


  1. our kampong folks are not alcoholics at all, we are very conservative about our religious obligations, i have not known of any "drinker" of even the "guiness stout" anybody has heard?
    that medical condition of not being able to remember faces, in my uneducated opinion, may largely be due to some parts of the brain (brain cells) (as revealed by the research) being damaged by either virus or some unhealthy addictions to certain "food" and/or "drink" such as (my logical thinking) the heavy smoking and the "makan sireh" - popular with our folks
    .......only toxicology experts can research on this and come out with some useful findings, on some health conditions affecting some of our folks

  2. I remember of a guy who used to drink Guiness Stout (or was it Tiger Beer?), a guy from Lipat Kajang drinking in one of the Chinese shops in Bandar Kerdau. Maybe a couple of other guys, I cannot remember if there was more than 1 guy. And when they drank they (or was it just he?) used to eat 'kacang goreng'. That I remember well.
    There was also another guy who was an opium addict. He used to walk almost everyday from Lipat Kajang to Bandar Kerdau just to smoke opium at the back of one of the shop houses. We were small then and every time we saw him we all ran away fast.
    About makan sireh, all old folks in Kampong Lipat Kajang used (it was a tradition that when you are old you 'makan sireh') to do that in those days. They also chewed raw tobacco. All? I cannot remember if there was an exception.
    Cannot remember now the word they described about that chewing of raw tobacco .....was it 'sendal'? They used to put that raw tobacco piece in front of their front teeth (if they still had some).

  3. i like the sireh story. old people chew sireh and its concoctions. if they have no tooth, they use "gobek" to pulverise the 'sireh' and its content. i used to help out with my grandfather and my grandmother to "gobek" 'sireh'. doing it was very peaceful because of the noise. a nice musical beat it was. and when you have to take out the end product, you have the pride to see how well you have pulverise the 'sireh'. you may even take some to put in your mouth and spit red saliva.

    of the drinking, it was more of imitation. they drank beer because they want to be like orang puteh, orang puteh drank beer in club in Temerloh, orang Melayu drank beer in Chinese shops.

    smoking, well they all wanted to be like film stars. smoke and blow the smoke into girls faces. good fun, untill they get stuck with the habit. nowadays children smoke because they want to look 'adult', and can chase girls.

  4. i suppose, ada dikalangan penduduk, pengetahuan agama cukup, mengaji quran khatam, luaran nampak macam semuanya ok taada yang melanggar hukum, tapi disebalik itu, di kerana kurang amalan harian (yang boleh menjauhkan diri dari kemungkaran kecil atau besooor), maka terpulanlah kepada masing-masing diri apa nok buat, tak kiralah agama kata, dilarang buat, berdosa, tak d siape tahu, cuma antara "aku" dengan tuhan aje

    lepas noreh getoh tiap2 hari memang ade, kon nampok dengan mate sendiri (long time ago), yang kayuh basikal ke bandar kerdau, duduk di kedai kopi cina sebeloh pejabat pos aziz tu (sebaris dengan balai polis) dan .....guiness stout, ungge reke' nale de'......untuk kesihatan? (nak jadi kuat macam bulldog), what can you say, dia dari generasi terdahulu,
    but i think he has stopped long time ago, thank God
    i heard from some people in the kampong,
    ada pengajaran yang amat pahit buat diri dia, yang terjadi...
    he seemed very sober (insaf) the last tme i saw time, not long ago

    tentang hisap rokok dan makan sireh gobek, tradition tak dapat di hapuskan
    medically, i think no one really is concerned about the effects on their health, tak ngisap rokok tak makan sireh pun sakit juge mati juge
    i write this here not to offend anyone or to put anyone or the kampong to shame (tepuk ayer di dulang .........) but these are little things that has spoilt the community and the kampong