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Perri Peltz Reporting, NBC NewsImagine not being able to recognize a face, even the face of someone close to you. The disorder, known as "face blindness," affects an estimated two-percent of Americans.
Rose Fox, Face Blind Sufferer: "I mean I am looking at you and I can see your two eyes, a nose and a mouth, but I wouldn't know you walking down the street."
Scientists don't really understand very much about face blindness. They do know these individuals are otherwise completely normal, but seem to have something wrong with a particular part of the brain involved with facial recognition. And the ability to recognize faces is critical to human survival.
Steven Grenell, M.D., Neurologist: "We are social animals. We need to recognize members of our family, friends, people who are safe, people who are threats. If you don't read that, you are at a social disadvantage."
Rose Fox: "I'll see him walking past and it will take me a minute and I'll go, ‘Is that Josh? I think that's Josh.'"
And Josh Jasper is rose's husband. He helps her cope.
Josh Jasper, Rose's husband: "Well it took me a few years to develop the coping mechanisms for it, but now they are sort of second nature. When I see somebody that we should recognize, I'll say to Rose, ‘Oh, there's so and so, we met them at that thing last week.'"
And that kind of help is as good as it gets, there is no treatment.
Dr. Steven Grenell: "There is no medication or treatment which improves facial recognition. We teach them to pick up on cues. You know, my friend Jon always wears plaid shirts and dark pants. So if I see someone with plaid shirts and dark pants and he's about 50 years old, that's probably Jon."
Rose says the next time someone you know walks right past you without saying a thing, it may not be rudeness. They may be face blind.
Rose Fox: "Imagine going through life with the social equivalent of your pupils being dilated like they are after you go to the eye doctor and everything is so bright you have to wear sunglasses. That's the way I am when it comes to people's faces."
You can find more information about face blindness by following the link on our website.