The New Yorker, Aug 30, 2010

Today while on a train I caught up on some reading, including the August 30 issue of the New Yorker. I learned about prosopagnosia – the inability to recognize faces and some aspects of place/orientation.

The information came through a typically curious article by Dr. Oliver Sacks, a neurologist, author – of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat fame – and New Yorker, whom I met briefly one day in a class at Columbia University. Unabashedly, Sacks details his own mishaps in recognizing people he’s met and finding his way; it’s a life-long, inherited affliction that requires he remember individuals by things other than how they look. Half-generously, the magazine provides non-subscribers a detailed abstract of Face Blind that’s far less charming than the original piece but relatively rich in the medical details:

Severe congenital prosopagnosia is estimated to affect two to two and a half per cent of the population—six to eight million people in the United States alone.

Hard to believe? yes. Interesting? yes. Will Dr. Sacks recognize me if we meet again? Unlikely –

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