Long COVID-19 infections may cause some people to develop prosopagnosia, otherwise known as “face blindness”, according to a new study.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines face blindness as a “neurological disorder characterised by the inability to recognise faces”. Now, a study published in the journal Cortex has suggested that some individuals may develop difficulties recognising faces and navigational problems, following symptoms consistent with Covid.
The study focused on a 28-year-old woman named Annie, who contracted Covid in March 2020. Prior to that, Annie had no trouble recognising faces. However, two months after contracting the virus, she struggled to identify even her closest family members.
In one instance, Annie reported that she was unable to recognise her father’s face when she passed him at a restaurant, saying it was as if “my dad’s voice came out of a stranger’s face”. She told the researchers that she now relies on people’s voices as a means of identification.
The 28-year-old also developed “navigational deficits” after having Covid. She revealed that she now struggles to find her way through a grocery store, locate her parked car without help or remember directions to frequently visited locations.
Researchers, including those from Dartmouth College in the US, also collected survey responses from 54 people with long Covid. They found that a majority reported having problems with visual recognition and navigation abilities.
“Annie’s results indicate that COVID-19 can produce severe and selective neuropsychological impairment similar to deficits seen following brain damage, and it appears that high-level visual impairments are not uncommon in people with long COVID,” the researchers wrote in the study.
Notably, long Covid refers to a condition in which symptoms of the virus persist for longer than 12 weeks after the initial infection.
The findings, researchers said, highlight the perceptual problems with face recognition and navigation that can be caused by Covid. They also added while the study did a good job of describing the testing and comparisons of several neurocognitive tests, more rigorous testing is needed to strengthen its conclusions.