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Hyperfamiliarity for unknown faces after left lateral temporo-occipital venous infarction: a double dissociation with prosopagnosia

Wetzel, Corinne
Published in Brain. 2003, vol. 126, no. Pt 4, p. 889-907
Abstract Right hemisphere dominance in face processing is well established and unilateral right inferior temporo-occipital damage can result in prosopagnosia. Here, we describe a 21-year-old right-handed woman with acute impairment in face recognition that selectively concerned unfamiliar faces, following a focal left lateral temporo-occipital venous infarct. She was severely impaired in discerning that unknown people seen in everyday life were unfamiliar, although she had no difficulty recognizing familiar people. Thus, she had no prosopagnosia, but abnormal 'hyperfamiliarity' for unknown faces. Her difficulty was not accompanied by delusions or deficits in discrimination, identification or memory for faces. Standard neuropsychological testing showed that her recognition of familiar faces was entirely normal. By contrast, her sense of personally knowing faces was severely impaired when unknown faces evoked weak signals of familiarity based on spurious cues, to the extent that she would misattribute fame to faces that were unknown but to which she had been incidentally exposed on a prior occasion. Priming experiments also revealed that, unlike normal subjects, she made familiarity judgements without accessing semantic identity representations. Moreover, in face recognition tests, she generally showed bias in that she relied more on right-hemisphere strategies to identify global traits and less on left-hemisphere processes compared with healthy subjects. This case provides novel evidence for a differential contribution of the two hemispheres to face recognition. Hyperfamiliarity for unknown faces might arise from an imbalance between reciprocal hemispheric functions in face recognition, with relative hypoactivation of left hemisphere processes but hyperactivation of right-hemisphere processes for retrieving stored associations about people, linking seen faces to representations of affective and personal relevance. Hence, abnormal bias in attributing some personal meaning to unknown faces could be evoked by spurious signals of familiarity based on irrelevant affective associations in the right hemisphere.
Keywords AdultBrain Infarction/ complications/diagnosisFemaleFunctional LateralityHumansMagnetic Resonance ImagingOccipital Lobe/ blood supplyProsopagnosia/diagnosis/ etiologyTemporal Lobe/ blood supply
PMID: 12615646
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VUILLEUMIER, Patrik et al. Hyperfamiliarity for unknown faces after left lateral temporo-occipital venous infarction: a double dissociation with prosopagnosia. In: Brain, 2003, vol. 126, n° Pt 4, p. 889-907.

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Deposited on : 2010-08-06

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