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Brad Pitt Says He Has Prosopagnosia. What is That?

July 08, 2022

One of the most recognizable people in the world says he has a rare neurological disorder called prosopagnosia that renders him often unable to recognize faces. The actor Brad Pitt said in a recent interview that he has what is commonly known as “face blindness.” Pitt, who is 58, said he has never been formally diagnosed with the condition, but he has struggled for years to recognize people’s faces. “Thankfully this is a rare condition,” said Mark Alberts, MD, FAHA, co-physician-in-chief of Hartford HealthCare’s Ayer Neuroscience Institute and chief of neurology at Hartford Hospital. The condition is not connected to memory loss, vision impairment or learning disabilities. It is thought to be the result of abnormalities, damage or impairment in the right fusiform gyrus, a fold in the brain that appears to coordinate the neural systems that control facial perception and memory. It can be connected to stroke, traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s or other neurodegenerative diseases. This is known as “acquired prosopagnosia.” Developmental prosopagnosia means the person has the condition at birth, though studies show that is less common. Some research suggests it can run in families. “The anatomic basis typically involves the right temporal region near the occipital lobe,” said Alberts, “but often there are bilateral lesions.” Severity varies among those who live with it: some people might have trouble recognizing a friend or family member, while others may not even be able to identify themselves in a mirror. Some people may be unable to differentiate between faces and objects. People with prosopagnosia can become anxious or depressed because of the isolation and fear that come with the condition. In a 2013 interview, Pitt said his inability to recognize people’s faces had become so severe that “That’s why I stay home.” There's no cure for prosopagnosia. Treatment focuses on coping skills that can assist in identifying other people without reliance on the face. This might include height, build, clothing, accessories, vocal mannerisms and gait as sources of recognition.

Ayer Neuroscience Institute