New study finds Covid causes ‘facial blindness’ – six signs of the disease
About two million people are living with persistent symptoms of the coronavirus, with fatigue and trouble concentrating being the main long-term signs. Unfortunately, new research shows that Covid-related neurological problems can lead to you not being able to recognize your family.
A new study published in the journal Cortex reports the case of a 28-year-old customer service representative and portrait artist who experienced a relapse of symptoms two months after being diagnosed with Covid in March 2020.
Shortly after her relapse, Annie noticed facial recognition difficulties that prevented her from recognizing the faces of her family members.
The research team believes that the coronavirus may cause facial recognition difficulties and navigation problems.
While Covid has previously been linked to a range of neurological problems – think loss of smell and taste, attention deficits and brain fog – this study is the first to report “prosopagnosia,” also known as facial blindness.
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According to the NHS, telltale signs of prosopagnosia include difficulty:
- Face recognition (you will still see parts of the face as usual, but all faces may look the same to you)
- Recognizing emotions in people’s faces
- Recognition of the age and gender of people
- Character recognition and story tracking in TV programs or movies
- Recognition of other things such as cars or animals
- Finding your way around.
Annie first realized that something was wrong when she was in a restaurant, meeting her family for the first time after being sick with Covid.
At first she didn’t recognize them. As she walked past them again, her father called her.
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“It was like my father’s voice came from a stranger’s face,” said the 28-year-old, who now relies on voices to recognize people she knows.
Annie also experienced navigational difficulties, such as difficulty remembering where certain sections were in her grocery store or where she parked her car.
Senior study author Brad Duchene said: “Our attention was drawn to the combination of prosopagnosia and navigational deficits that Annie had because the two deficits often go hand in hand after someone has had brain damage or developmental disabilities.
“This overlap is likely due to the fact that the two abilities depend on neighboring brain regions in the temporal lobe.”
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The research team ran a series of tests on Annie to assess her facial recognition problems.
During these tests, the 28-year-old man performed much worse than most people. She was unable to identify many celebrities, learn new identities and recognize faces.
However, the researchers reported that her test scores for face detection, face perception, and object recognition were all normal, indicating that Annie’s problems with faces are related to a deficit in facial memory rather than a more general impairment.
Duchene said: “It is known that there are broad cognitive problems that can be caused by COVID-19, but here we are seeing severe and very selective problems in Annie.
“And that goes to show that there could be a lot of other people with pretty severe and selective deficits after Covid.”
In addition, the research team also looked at 86 participants who were either long-term ill with Covid or who had recovered from the virus to determine if others struggled with facial recognition and navigation problems.
Lead author Marie-Louise Kieseler said: “Most respondents with long-term Covid reported that their cognitive and perceptual abilities have declined since they had Covid, which is not surprising, but what is really striking is how many respondents reported being deficient.
“It was not just a small concentration of truly attenuated cases, but the vast majority of people in the long covid cohort reported marked difficulty doing things they could do before contracting COVID-19 without any problems.”
Unfortunately, one problem reported by many respondents was difficulty visualizing family and friends.
Currently, the research team hopes to conduct additional studies to further explore this issue.
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