Project information

Research into Prosopagnosia (Face Blindness)

Prosopagnosia (face blindness) is a little known condition. The team researching prosopagnosia at BU are looking at developing our understanding of the condition, with particular focus on the nature of face blindness in children.


Charity information: Bournemouth University

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  • Need


    Face blindness is a cognitive condition in which people are unable to recognise faces, including those of people closest to them and in some cases, even their own reflections in the mirror. It can be acquired following head injury or stroke, but many more suffer from a developmental form of the condition and have lifelong difficulties in face recognition and social interaction. It is estimated that 300,000 children in the UK alone are affected, yet it is not currently recognized by the NHS.


    Very little work has explored the nature of face blindness in children of any age, nor how it may fluctuate over time. It is possible that the condition may become increasingly severe with age, or that there is a critical age where we have the best opportunity to improve face processing skills. The current research work is therefore seeking to explore these issues and obtain a much greater quantity of data through testing for the condition in whole groups of children.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Understanding the nature of face blindness in children and how it may develop over time


    » Purchase a mobile eye-tracking unit to test face recognition skills more widely (eye-movement analysis indicates impairments in face regcognition).

    What success will look like

    Increased numbers of research participants and increased level of eye-tracking data to reliably inform the research.

  • Impact


    More face blind children will receive a diagnosis and gain access to support. Some face blind individuals develop their own coping mechanisms to overcome face recognition impairment. However, others report avoidance of social interactions, problems with interpersonal relationships, damage to career, and even depression. Providing a reliable diagnosis at an early age will give face blind individuals the opportunity to adapt and to try training exercises that can improve face recognition skills.


    Only part-funding this project will limit the process of gathering data and delay the progress of the research. We are actively fundraising from a variety of sources to reduce this risk. In the meantime, the team are able to use the lab-based equipment at the University, but the system is not transportable so there is a limit to the number of research participants that they can see.


    We can send all funders that opt to share their contact details with us a copy of the project progress report. We usually report to donors every 12 months, or as requested. We also send newsletters to update our supporters more frequently.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £26,643

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £19,570 EyeLink 1000 Core Unit High-speed Camera
      £1,815 Desktop Mount Lenses and Illuminator
      £1,454 Remote Functionality Lenses and Tracking Stickers
      £3,805 Other Portable Host Computer, Hard Shell Carrying Case, Head Support, Shipping, Handling

    Current Funding / Pledges

    Source Amount
    Private funder £1,000 Guaranteed
  • Background


    The Centre for Face Processing Disorders is located at Bournemouth University's Talbot Campus. Research participants come from all around the UK.


    Face blind research participants describe how their involvement in the research has helped them to understand their difficulties and how 'diagnosis' has been a huge relief to them. A parent of a child who acquired face blindness as a result of encephalitis is now hopeful for the future: her daughter has been performing regular exercises set by the research team and her face recognition skills are already improving. Many more children could benefit in a similar way.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    The Centre for Face Processing Disorders at Bournemouth University is the only one of its kind in the UK. The Centre has had its research published in leading scientific journals, featured in documentaries on BBC1 and CBBC, and published in newspapers such as the Guardian, Independent and Daily Mail.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Dr Sarah Bate

    Dr Sarah Bate is Director of the Centre for Face Processing Disorders and a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at BU -

Dr Sarah Bate testing for the condition

Dr Sarah Bate testing for the condition