‘Face blindness’ linked to COVID-19, says alarming study


March 14, 2023 | 3:52 p.m

After a bout of COVID-19, Annie couldn’t recognize her father’s face despite being a part-time portrait artist.

“My father’s voice came out of a stranger’s face,” the case study, identified only by her first name for privacy reasons, told researchers.

Annie’s experience of “face blindness” is now believed to be the result of long-term COVID-19, which has been linked to other neurological effects, including brain fog, memory problems, and loss of smell and taste.

Annie, 28, is the first and only person known to have face blindness — what experts are calling prosopagnosia — as a result of COVID-19 infection, according to a new peer-reviewed study from Dartmouth College, published in medical journal Cortex was published.

“Faces are like water in my head,” the customer service rep and part-time artist told doctors.

Face blindness can also be caused by a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or certain neurological conditions, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

In some cases, it can be present at birth and can run in families.

Face blindness can also be caused by a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or certain neurological conditions, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF

The problem first became apparent to Annie when she met her family at a restaurant two months after recovering from COVID-19 – but walked past them twice without recognizing them.

She now has to rely on voices to identify the friends and family standing right in front of her.

She, too, lives with navigational problems: she has trouble finding her way around her favorite grocery store, has trouble finding her car in a parking lot, and sometimes finds herself driving in the wrong direction on once-familiar routes.

“The combination of prosopagnosia and navigational deficits that Annie had caught our attention because the two deficits often go hand-in-hand after someone has either brain damage or developmental deficits,” Brad Duchaine of the Social Perception Lab at Dartmouth College said in a statement .

Duchaine and other researchers published Annie’s case study in the journal cortex. “Our study highlights the type of perceptual problems in facial recognition and navigation that can be caused by COVID-19,” Duchaine said. “People should be aware of that, especially doctors and other healthcare professionals.”

Last year, President Joe Biden’s administration announced a lengthy COVID-19 research push amid estimates that up to one in three people who had the coronavirus could be affected.

“The Administration recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in new members of the disability community and has had a tremendous impact on individuals with disabilities,” the White House said in a statement at the time.

The initiative is focused on improving care and support, improving education and outreach, and boosting research, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said during a COVID-19 response team briefing.

“Long COVID is real and there is still so much we don’t know about it,” Becerra added. “Millions of Americans may be struggling with ongoing health effects ranging from things that are easier to notice, like difficulty breathing or an irregular heartbeat, to less obvious but potentially serious conditions related to the brain or mental health. “

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