‘Face blindness’ linked to COVID-19, alarming study says


March 14, 2023 | 3:52 pm

After a bout of COVID-19, Annie was unable to recognize her father’s face, even though she is a part-time portrait artist.

“My father’s voice came from a stranger’s face,” the case study, using only her first name for privacy reasons, told investigators.

It is now believed that Annie’s experience of “face blindness” is the result of long-term COVID-19, which has been linked to other neurological effects, including brain fog, memory problems, and loss of smell and taste.

Annie, 28, is the first and only person known to have face blindness — what experts call prosopagnosia — due to a COVID-19 infection, according to a new peer-reviewed study from Dartmouth College published in the medical journal Cortex.

“Faces are like water in my head,” the customer service representative and part-time performer told the doctors.

Face blindness can also be caused by a stroke, a traumatic brain injury or certain neurological conditions, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

In some cases, it may be present at birth and may run in families.

Face blindness can also be caused by a stroke, a traumatic brain injury or certain neurological conditions, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF

The problem first became apparent to Annie when, two months after recovering from COVID-19, she met her family at a restaurant – only to walk past them twice without recognizing them.

She now has to rely on voices to recognize the friends and family standing right in front of her.

She also lives with navigation problems: It’s now hard to find her way around her favorite grocery store, she has trouble finding her car in a parking lot, and she sometimes realizes she’s driving in the wrong direction on once-familiar routes.

“The combination of prosopagnosia and navigational disabilities that Annie had caught our attention because the two deficits often go hand-in-hand after someone has had brain damage or developmental disabilities,” says Brad Duchaine of the Social Perception Lab at Dartmouth. College in a statement.

Duchaine and other researchers published Annie’s case study in the journal bark. “Our study highlights the types of perceptual difficulties with facial recognition and navigation that may be caused by COVID-19,” says Duchaine. “It’s something people should be aware of, especially doctors and other healthcare professionals.”

Last year, President Joe Biden’s administration announced a lengthy investigation into COVID-19 amid estimates that it may affect as many as one in three people who have had the coronavirus.

“The administration recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought new members of the disability community and has had a tremendous impact on people with disabilities,” the White House said in a statement at the time.

The initiative is aimed at improving care and support, improving education and outreach and advancing research, Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, said at a briefing of the COVID-19 response team.

“Long COVID is real and there is still so much we don’t know about it,” Becerra added. “Millions of Americans may be struggling with lingering health effects ranging from things that are easier to notice, such as difficulty breathing or an irregular heartbeat, to less obvious but potentially serious conditions related to the brain or mental health.”

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