Electrophysiological markers of covert face recognition in developmental prosopagnosia
To study the existence and neural basis of covert face recognition in individuals with developmental prosopagnosia, we tested a group of 12 participants with developmental prosopagnosia in a task that required them to judge the familiarity of successively presented famous or non-famous faces. Electroencephalography was recorded during task performance, and event-related brain potentials were computed for recognized famous faces, non-recognized famous faces and non-famous faces. In six
... s with developmental prosopagnosia, non-recognized famous faces triggered an occipito-temporal N250 component, which is thought to reflect the activation of stored visual memory traces of known individual faces. In contrast to the N250, the P600f component, which is linked to late semantic stages of face identity processing, was not triggered by non-recognized famous faces. Event-related potential correlates of explicit face recognition obtained on those few trials where participants with developmental prosopagnosia classified famous faces as known or familiar, were similar to the effects previously found in participants with intact face recognition abilities, suggesting that face recognition mechanisms in individuals with developmental prosopagnosia are not qualitatively different from that of unimpaired individuals. Overall, these event-related potential results provide the first neurophysiological evidence for covert face recognition in developmental prosopagnosia, and suggest this phenomenon results from disconnected links between intact identity-specific visual memory traces and later semantic face processing stages. They also imply that the activation of stored visual representations of familiar faces is not sufficient for conscious explicit face recognition.