Probing short-term face memory in developmental prosopagnosia.
Shah P., Gaule A., Gaigg SB., Bird G., Cook R.
It has recently been proposed that the face recognition deficits seen in neurodevelopmental disorders may reflect impaired short-term face memory (STFM). For example, introducing a brief delay between the presentation of target and test faces seems to disproportionately impair matching or recognition performance in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The present study sought to determine whether deficits of STFM contribute to impaired face recognition seen in Developmental Prosopagnosia. To determine whether developmental prosopagnosics exhibit impaired STFM, the present study used a six-alternative-forced-choice match-to-sample procedure. Memory demand was manipulated by employing a short or long delay between the presentation of the target face, and the six test faces. Crucially, the perceptual demands were identical in both conditions, thereby allowing the independent contribution of STFM to be assessed. Prosopagnosics showed clear evidence of a category-specific impairment for face-matching in both conditions; they were both slower and less accurate than matched controls. Crucially, however, the prosopagnosics showed no evidence of disproportionate face recognition impairment in the long-interval condition. While individuals with DP may have problems with the perceptual encoding of faces, it appears that their representations are stable over short durations. These results suggest that the face recognition difficulties seen in DP and autism may be qualitatively different, attributable to deficits of perceptual encoding and perceptual maintenance, respectively.