Business meetings, soccer games, holiday parties; we all attend events where we see familiar faces, but may not remember the names. It's a fairly common problem and it may be more serious than you think. A FOX16 health alert about a disorder known as face blindness. It affects one in 50 people and in the most severe cases, prevents patients from recognizing their own children.
"Well imagine going through life and not being able to pick out your own children in a crowded room, because all you see are blank faces," says Kathy Mershon, who was born with Prosopagnosia.
For Kathy this is a reality she deals with everyday.
"Out on the playground it's very difficult for me to figure out which child is mine," said Mershon.
It's difficult for Kathy Mershon to identify her own children, 11 year old Donn, and 8 year old Kayla because she was born with Prosopagnosia, a neurological disorder that Dr. Marlon Doucet of St. Vincent says is not very well understood, but very real.
"The person looks at another individual and when they re-meet them they are unable to recognize their face, it can be a familiar acquaintance, someone they see on a regular basis, and they are unable to recognize that individual," said Dr. Marlon Doucet.
Kathy says it's not that her vision is blurry, but instead faces are no more unique to her than hands are to us.
"It's not a vision problem, there is a place in the brain devoted to face recognition, all other visual images are sent to another part, if face recognition isn't working, I have no memory of faces," said Mershon.
That's why Kathy has a hard time picking out her own children in a crowded room. She knows what they look like, but her memory won't let her recall their images in her head.
"I know his build, the way he walks, his voice, his eyes, but I can't see their faces when I'm not looking at them I can't picture their faces," said Mershon.
So what causes Prosopagnosia, Dr. Doucet says no one knows, but the limited research shows the disorder may develop during the early stages of life.
"It was originally thought that this disorder was from a brain injury, at birth, prior or in utero, womb, could have been a possibility," said Dr. Doucet.
In Kathy's case, she stumbled onto a Prosopagnosia website and diagnosed herself. Aside from struggling to recognize her kids and coworkers, Kathy also has a hard time with celebrities. Because it is so hard for Kathy to recognize her children when there are other kids around, she often relies on her memory. If she can remember what they were wearing, yellow jacket, orange hat, she can pick her kids out of the room.
Those who suffer from Prosopagnosia also have a hard time following movies because they can't tell one character apart from the other.
For more on face blindness check out the following links:
-What are face-blind people like
-What I remember of faces that I see