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Does acquisition of Greeble expertise in prosopagnosia rule out a domain-general deficit?

journal contribution
posted on 01.01.2012, 00:00 by Cindy M. Bukach, Isabel Gauthier, Michael J. Tarr, Helena Kadlec, Sara Barth, Emily Ryan, Justin Turpin, Daniel N. Bub

According to the expertise account of face specialization, a deficit that affects general expertise mechanisms should similarly impair the expert individuation of both faces and other visually homogeneous object classes. To test this possibility, we attempted to train a prosopagnosic patient, LR, to become a Greeble expert using the standard Greeble expertise-training paradigm (Gauthier & Tarr, 2002). Previous research demonstrated that LR's prosopagnosia was related to an inability to simultaneously use multiple features in a speeded face recognition task (Bukach, Bub, Gauthier, & Tarr, 2006). We hypothesized that LR's inability to use multiple face features would manifest in his acquisition of Greeble expertise, even though his basic object recognition is unimpaired according to standard neuropsychological testing. Although LR was eventually able to reach expertise criterion, he took many more training sessions than controls, suggesting use of an abnormal strategy. To further explore LR's Greeble processing strategies, we assessed his ability to use multiple Greeble features both before and after Greeble training. LR's performance in two versions of this task demonstrates that, even after training, he relies heavily on a single feature to identify Greebles. This correspondence between LR's face recognition and post-training Greeble recognition supports the idea that impaired face recognition is simply the most visible symptom of a more general object recognition impairment in acquired prosopagnosia.