Researchers at the University of Alberta have isolated a rare conditionthat prevents some children from recognizing a face they have seenbefore. They believe this conditions continues into adulthood.
"We believe this has never been discovered before," said CarmenRasmussen, a doctoral student in the U of A Department of Psychology."And now we hope to be able to better diagnose people with thiscondition and develop interventions to help them."
Rasmussen and her colleague, Dr. Glennis Liddell of theGlenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, studied 14 children with NonverbalLearning Disability (NLD), a condition that makes it difficult toprocess nonverbal information. Children with NLD generally do well onmost elements of aptitude tests except for those that involve visualspatial processing, such as recognizing and working with shapes.
"It can be difficult to recognize someone with NLD because sometimes the symptoms are not always obvious," Rasmussen explained.
Rasmussen and Liddell put 14 children with NLD--12 boys and twogirls--through a number of tests, including showing them patterns ofdots and then showing them the same patterns a few minutes later to seeif the children recognized them. The children did well at this task,but when a similar experiment was conducted using pictures of people'sfaces, the children did poorly in recognizing the faces, especiallyshortly after they first saw them. They did better at recognizing facesthe more time they had to process them. "It's interesting that they hadno problem remembering the dots but had significant difficultyremembering the faces," Rasmussen said. "We do not know exactly whychildren with NLD have such difficulty with facial memory, so thisstudy certainly opens up the door for further research."
Although the researchers don't know why the facial memorycondition occurs, they believe it is related to a disorder in the righthemisphere of the brain. Their research is published this month inLearning Disabilities Research and Practice.
NLD affects less than one per cent of the population, appearsto be congenital and lasts a lifetime. Rasmussen added that there areways of teaching people with NLD in order to help them improve theirvisual spatial processing.
Materials provided by University of Alberta. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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