Face-specific and domain-general visual processing deficits in children with developmental prosopagnosia

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Evidence suggests that face and object recognition depend on distinct neural circuitry within the visual system. Work with adults with developmental prosopagnosia (DP) demonstrates that some individuals have preserved object recognition despite severe face recognition deficits. This face selectivity in adults with DP indicates that face- and object-processing systems can develop independently, but it is unclear at what point in development these mechanisms are separable. Determining when individuals with DP first show dissociations between faces and objects is one means to address this question. In the current study, we investigated face and object processing in six children with DP (5–12-years-old). Each child was assessed with one face perception test, two different face memory tests, and two object memory tests that were matched to the face memory tests in format and difficulty. Scores from the DP children on the matched face and object tasks were compared to within-subject data from age-matched controls. Four of the six DP children, including the 5-year-old, showed evidence of face-specific deficits, while one child appeared to have more general visual-processing deficits. The remaining child had inconsistent results. The presence of face-specific deficits in children with DP suggests that face and object perception depend on dissociable processes in childhood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-275
Number of pages17
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
K.A.D. was supported by a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship awarded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) grant awarded to B.D. [grant number RES-062-23-2426]. J. T. E. was supported by the National Institutes of Mental Health [grant number NIH/NIMH RO1 MH104324].


  • Developmental disorders
  • Face recognition
  • Object recognition
  • Prosopagnosia
  • Vision

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