Recognising faces may be problematic for some after long COVID

Researchers cite persistent prosopagnosia in the case of a 28-year-old woman.

Image credit © Alexander -
Severe and selective neuropsychological impairments may be possible after long COVID, according to researchers. (Image credit © Alexander -

Two PhD students from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, US, have reported that severe and selective neuropsychological impairments may be possible after long COVID.1 These impairments can be life-altering and persistent.

Marie-Luise Kieseler and Brad Duchaine described the case of a 28-year-old woman, Annie, who had normal face recognition, ie, prosopagnosia, before she developed COVID-19 in March 2020. Two months later, she noticed that she was having difficulties recognising faces when her COVID-19 symptoms relapsed. The problems with face recognition have persisted.

They assessed Annie’s abilities to recognise faces using 4 tests: a famous faces test, a Doppelganger test to assess her long-term face identity recognition abilities, and 2 tests of unfamiliar face identity recognition. Her navigational skills were also markedly impaired after she developed COVID-19.They reported that she performed poorly on all 4 tests. However, she performed normally on tests of face detection, face identity perception, object recognition, scene recognition and non-visual memory.

Survey data that was self-reported by 54 individuals who responded to the survey “showed that a majority reported reductions in visual recognition and navigation abilities,” the researchers reported.

In Annie’s case, she resumed working from home in April 2020. However, she could not recognise her father when she saw him again after she recovered from her illness and she could not differentiate him from her uncle.

“My dad’s voice came out of a stranger’s face,” she said.

She also reported that she experienced problems getting around a grocery store and identifying her car in the lot.

The researchers summarised, “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.”

  1. Kieseler M-L, Duchaine B. Persistent prosopagnosia following COVID-19. Cortex. 2023; Published online March 9, 2023; rights and content

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