Brad Pitt has ‘Face Blindness.’ Here’s What That Means

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Actor and film producer Brad Pitt revealed he has prosopagnosia, a rare condition that makes it difficult to recognize people’s faces. Amy Sussman/Getty Images
  • Brad Pitt recently revealed that he lives with ‘face blindness,’ also called prosopagnosia, a condition that causes the inability to recognize faces.
  • Experts say the condition can be socially disabling and may run in some families.
  • They also say there are coping mechanisms people can learn to help manage living with this condition.

Speaking with GQ, actor Brad Pitt recently admitted he lives with a rare condition – one that an internationally famous movie star might find very inconvenient.

He told the magazine he believes he has prosopagnosia, also known as “face blindness.”

Pitt said he struggles to remember new people or recognize their faces. Never officially diagnosed, he fears this has led people to believe he’s remote, aloof, inaccessible, and self-absorbed.

“Nobody believes me,” Pitt told the interviewer, and it’s not difficult to understand why.

However, as unusual as it may sound, prosopagnosia is a real condition that can present unique challenges to those who are living with it.

Dr. Alex Dimitriu, who is double board certified in Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine and is the founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine, as well as BrainfoodMD, told Healthline that this condition results from abnormalities or damage to a part of the right side of the brain called the fusiform gyrus.

This is a fold in the brain that coordinates the neural systems responsible for controlling facial perception and memory.

“[Prosopagnosia] has been shown to affect up to two percent of the general population,” Dimitriu said.

He explained that people with prosopagnosia have trouble recognizing faces as a whole, to be able to identify them.

“They see all the facial parts, but cannot combine this into a single face for recognition,” he said, and pointed out that “Not being able to recognize faces can have significant social implications.”

According to Dr. Salman Azhar, a neurologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, there are two types of this disorder.

“One is developmental, which means that they have it from early childhood and it’s not caused by an injury,” he explained. “Then there’s another type that can happen later because they have a brain injury or a stroke or even Alzheimer’s to some degree.”

Azhar said that Brad Pitt likely has the developmental form of this condition.

“He’s always had this difficulty of recognizing faces,” he said. “So he sees the face, but he has no ability to connect it to who that face is.”

“In developmental prosopagnosia, there’s no MRI positive,” noted Azhar. “You can’t do an MRI and see there is something wrong with the brain. In strokes and brain injury, of course, you can do that.”

When asked if there is any treatment, Azhar said no, but there are ways to get around it.

“You may develop a sort of ‘catalog,’ or list of, for example, your wife’s face,” he said. “She has brown hair, she’s got freckles on her nose, an oblong face, and you sort of check those categories off to know ‘this is my wife.’

Famed neurologist Oliver Sacks, called the “poet laureate of medicine,” spoke with CNN in 2011 about living with prosopagnosia.

To highlight his inability to recognize faces, Sacks was shown a picture of the iconic Elvis Presley – which he was unable to identify.

“I don’t know who it is,” he said, and admitted that when looking in a mirror, “Sometimes I fail to recognize myself.”

He told CNN’s Sanjay Gupta that he’s had the condition his whole life. He suspects that in his case it’s genetic since his brother also lives with prosopagnosia.

“Even Brad Pitt has commented that people felt he is aloof, because of his trouble recognizing familiar faces,” said Dimitriu.

He added that people with prosopagnosia might avoid socializing because of their inability to recognize faces, and a fear of either speaking to the wrong person or misidentifying someone.

“In many instances, it might be easier to avoid the situation, than try to figure out who the individual is,” said Dimitriu.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), developmental prosopagnosia seems to run in some families.

The institute emphasized that “some degree” of prosopagnosia is often present in children with autism and Asperger’s syndrome, and is possibly the cause of impaired social development in this group.

“It can be a very socially disabling syndrome,” confirmed Azhar.

There are online resources that could help if you or a loved one are affected by this condition.

First, there is a Facebook group appropriately called “Prosopagnosia,” where members offer each other support and share information and their experiences.

You can also visit prosopagnosiaresearch.org, and download a PDF file of coping strategies to help make social interactions easier.

Additionally, there are self-tests available, like this one, from openpsychometrics.org, which is called the Exposure Based Face Memory Test.

Brad Pitt recently revealed that he lives with ‘face blindness,’ also called prosopagnosia, a condition that causes the inability to recognize faces.

Experts say the condition can be socially disabling and may run in some families.

They also say there are coping mechanisms people can learn to help manage living with this condition.

Medicine