It is well established that face- processing entails specialized processing mechanisms that are not used for the processing of non-face objects. The current project aims at understanding the nature of these face recognition mechanisms by studying the cognitive, neural and possibly genetic markers of impaired face recognition abilities. To that effect, we will recruit individuals who suffer from developmental prosopagnosia (DP), a lifelong impairment in the recognition of faces, with no apparent brain damage. Using cognitive paradigms, we will assess the nature of the face representation of these individuals and how it differs from the face representation of normal individuals. Using functional MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) we will assess if and how the neurophysiological response to faces is abnormal in DP.
Finally, to assess a possible genetic marker for face processing abilities, we will investigate the cognitive and neural correlates of face processing of family relatives of DPs and assess whether they show similar cognitive and/or neural abnormalities. The experience in cognitive and neuroscience methods that I gained during my doctorate and post-doctorate training in the US will allow me to successfully conduct this project and to transfer the knowledge I acquired to students and colleagues in Europe. My plan to continue my collaborations with my colleagues in the Prosopagnosia Centres in the US and London and to establish new inter-disciplinary collaborations with European laboratories will contribute to European scientific excellence and competitiveness.
By characterizing the abnormal system, we hope to gain knowledge about the function of the intact face processing system and to promote the development of training techniques to improve face- processing abilities in these individuals. Funding of this project will facilitate my reintegration and enable me to achieve my goal to get tenure and job stability at Tel Aviv University.
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