Brad Pitt Suffers from Prosopagnosia: What is This Disorder?

Since 2013, Brad Pitt has admitted that he has serious difficulties in recognizing people's faces. Does he suffer from prosopagnosia? How was he able to act for so many years with this problem? Learn the answers here.
Brad Pitt Suffers from Prosopagnosia: What is This Disorder?
Leonardo Biolatto

Written and verified by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 07 June, 2023

Statements made by Brad Pitt about the prosopagnosia he suffers from have left many astonished. It’s not a common disease and is definitely less well-known than the emblematic figure of the 58-year-old American actor.

Although he had already made statements along the same lines some time ago by announcing that he suffered the effects of this problem, he repeated it in recent days, and it’s generated curiosity in the public. Is he really unable to recognize people’s faces? How did he sustain his career with this disorder?

We’ll take a look at what prosopagnosia is and how it can be treated. Is there a cure?

Prosopagnosia or face blindness

Brad Pitt’s prosopagnosia and that of many others are also known by the more colloquial name of “face blindness.” This name itself explains part of the clinical picture.

People with this condition find themselves unable to recognize the faces of others, even if they’ve had relatively close contact. Therefore, they can’t associate the face with the person they met. They may be able to do so after a conversation, but not immediately.

It’s common for the affected person to request information from the interlocutor with whom he or she is in dialogue in order to obtain data that will allow him or her to determine who he or she is. This is something the actor confessed:

A lot of people hate me because they think I’m disrespecting them. They think I’m conceited, rude, and self-centered. And it gets worse when I tell them to contextualize the time we met, so they get even more offended. -Brad Pitt in an interview

Some statistical estimates postulate that about 2% of the general population has prosopagnosia. The value increases among those groups of people who’ve had a stroke, for example, since they may suffer from the disorder as a sequel for a time.

Mujer con accidente cerebrovascular padece prosopagnosia.
Strokes can leave several neurological sequelae. Among them is facial blindness.

What are the causes of prosopagnosia?

Research places the anatomical location of the problem in a brain region called the right fusiform gyrus. There’s a fold of central nervous system tissue that is directly linked to memory, perception, and recognition of faces.

Some people are born with prosopagnosia. It’s thought that there is some genetic inheritance that explains it. However, it’s still not clear.

On the other hand, most of those affected develop the disorder during their lifetime due to the following causes:

  • A cerebrovascular accident (CVA): If there’s an interruption of blood flow in the aforementioned area, the neurons could be damaged and leave facial blindness as a sequel.
  • A brain injury: A polytrauma that affects this region, a tumor that grows and presses the fusiform gyrus, or even a maneuver in a central nervous system surgery could all cause prosopagnosia.
  • Neurodegenerative diseases: If the neurons responsible for the perception and identification of faces degenerate, as happens with Alzheimer’s, for example, facial blindness can become more symptom of the clinical picture.

It’s also worth mentioning that children with autism present the condition with a higher frequency than other infants. Even so, specialists believe that their prosopagnosia is due to a disconnection with reality and not due to brain damage.

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How is prosopagnosia diagnosed?

Forgetting a face every now and then is not enough to diagnose the condition.

The diagnosis of prosopagnosia must be made by a neurologist, but Brad Pitt hasn’t confirmed that he’s seen a specialist. According to his statements, the actor is convinced that this is his clinical picture because of the symptoms.

Although there are tests that doctors can perform on suspected patients, they’re not 100% confirmatory. Among these validated tests to guide professionals, the best known are called the “Benton Face Recognition Test,” and the “Warrington Face Recognition Memory Test.”

Some online tests are offered as a guide for people who may suffer from the condition, but the truth is that they’re not supported by science. It’s always best to have a neurologist experienced in this field evaluate the case and determine whether there’s prosopagnosia or perhaps even some degree of amnesia.

Like this article? You may also like to read: Eyes Changing Color: Truths and Myths

Does Brad Pitt’s prosopagnosia have a treatment?

There’s no cure for this disorder. So far, no approaches have been determined that can reverse the problem for patients who suffer from it.

What is offered are strategies and alternatives to improve their ability to recognize others based on the identification of characteristics other than the face. For example, their ways of moving, gestures, and the context that the interlocutor can give through a conversation are all ways to help them to identify them.

As Brad Pitt made clear about his prosopagnosia, one must be willing for others to interpret the fact as a lack of respect. This is why the disease is crossed with mood disorders.

People with this disorder often experience depression and social anxiety. The inability to recognize faces affects their relationships with others and makes it difficult to lead a relatively normal life among friends and co-workers.

Although research is being carried out to advance knowledge of the disorder and find basic solutions, much is still unknown about how this disease works and progresses. In this sense, there are also few neurologists who are specialized in this specific pathology.

Although the anatomical site where face recognition is located is known, scientists still don’t know why this ability may be lost.

A diagnosis should always be validated by a professional

Brad Pitt’s statements about his prosopagnosia are based on what he feels. The actor suspects he has this problem but has not received a neurological diagnosis.

It’s important to emphasize that there’s a big difference between occasional forgetfulness of faces and face blindness. Therefore, it must always be a neurologist who diagnoses the condition.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Kennerknecht, Ingo, et al. “First report of prevalence of non‐syndromic hereditary prosopagnosia (HPA).” American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A 140.15 (2006): 1617-1622.
  • Grüter, Thomas, Martina Grüter, and Claus‐Christian Carbon. “Neural and genetic foundations of face recognition and prosopagnosia.” Journal of neuropsychology 2.1 (2008): 79-97.
  • Minio-Paluello, Ilaria, et al. “Face individual identity recognition: a potential endophenotype in autism.” Molecular Autism 11.1 (2020): 1-16.
  • Duchaine, Bradley C., and Andrea Weidenfeld. “An evaluation of two commonly used tests of unfamiliar face recognition.” Neuropsychologia 41.6 (2003): 713-720.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.