Soul blindness, also visual agnosia or optical agnosia, is the inability to process sensory stimuli despite functioning perception. The sensory organs are not impaired and there is no mental illness such as dementia.
What is soul blindness?
The difference to conventional blindness is that agnosic patients do not have impaired vision. See ablogtophone for CHILD which stands for congenital hemidysplasia with ichthyosiform erythroderma and limb defects.
They are unable to link optical perceptions to visual memories.
People with mental blindness can see other people or objects, but cannot recognize them. However, acoustic and tactile perception is possible.
This neurological disorder is caused by damage to the visual center, specifically the occipital lobe (back part of the brain). Causes can be brain damage after an accident (cranial brain trauma) or a stroke. Apperceptive mind blindness prevents the assembly of the various perceived elements into a coherent whole.
It occurs due to damage to the early visual areas of the brain. Associative mental blindness always appears when one’s own imagination cannot be brought together with information from other modalities of perception. The subforms are described as conceptual, object, symbol, and simultaneous agnosia. The question of why those affected cannot perceive faces and objects correctly, even though their brain and eyes are completely intact, has not yet been answered conclusively.
The brain is unable to correctly interpret the sensory impressions conveyed through the eyes. The sense of sight, also known as the sense of sight, is the most important human sensory organ. The area in the brain that deals with the processing of the impressions supplied via the visual sense is correspondingly large. If a person sees something in their environment, this visual information meets the eye, which forwards it to the brain. On the way, this visual information passes through about forty highly specialized areas of the brain.
The primary visual center is in the back of the head. From this point, two pathways run through the brain, one reaching to the temple and the other to the crown of the head. The areas that are responsible for processing the incoming visual information line up along these paths. These areas are equipped with a large number of different nerve cells that react to different visual stimuli. The neurons involved in this process prefer complex visual stimuli.
At the end of the hierarchical process, the groups of neurons specifically respond to known people or objects. A visual connection exists not only within the visual areas, but also with more distant areas of the brain. All areas involved are in a lively exchange. In reading, for example, the visual areas work together with the language center.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Neuropsychology deals with the phenomenon of this missing facial recognition. She is trying to locate the place in the cerebral cortex responsible for recognizing geometric shapes. Magnetic resonance imaging studies show that the brain region between the occipital and lateral lobes is responsible for visual perception.
Face blindness occurs in isolation from other types of agnosia. Patients who have difficulty recognizing faces are still able to perceive the rest of their surroundings such as objects, trees, houses or the like. Face agnosia is thus not linked to object agnosia. For this reason, researchers assume that facial perception represents a separate processing process in the brain. Brain research faces many unanswered questions, since the processes in the brain are far from being fully understood.
Brain researchers assume that the “gyrus fusiformis” (brain convolution), the brain region located on the right side of the temple, controls the perception of faces. For this reason, scientists also refer to this area of the brain as the “fusiform face area” (FFA). The unusual phenomenon here is that a computed tomography does not show any abnormalities, although the corresponding modules that control this type of perception do not work in face-blind people.
Diagnosis & course of disease
The prominent symptom is the inability to recognize faces. Those affected are unable to recognize the faces of familiar people and identify them by features they know, such as voice, clothing, size or hair color (prosopagnosia). However, they are quite capable of detecting objects, obstacles and other objects. If there is object blindness, objects in the environment are not perceived correctly and those affected cannot, for example, draw pictures.
Since their imagination is unable to piece together the incoming visual stimuli into a whole picture, they cannot name the faces or objects present. Typically, agnosic patients cannot remember faces or objects, but have no trouble describing these things from memory. Most patients can write but have difficulty reading, which is because the ability to write comes from memory, but reading requires the perception of objects (letters).
Visual judgment (estimating distances) and the ability to name colors are limited. Everything that the affected person touches and hears is correctly named (tactile agnosia). The doctors carry out various tests on the patients. For example, the patient must identify objects and describe their use. In order to diagnose a visual field disorder, the patient is presented with photos of people he knows, whom he must name. Furthermore, the general function of the visual ability is checked in order to rule out a regular visual disorder or object agnosia.
Soul blindness has a very negative effect on the patient’s everyday life. In many cases, the patient’s relatives or parents and friends are also affected by the disease and suffer from severe psychological problems or depression. Due to the disease, patients can no longer perceive or assign people or objects correctly.
This leads to considerable restrictions in the everyday life of those affected, so that in many cases they are also dependent on the help of other people in their lives. Child development may also be restricted and significantly delayed by the disease. The further course of this disease depends very much on its exact cause, so that unfortunately no general prediction can be given.
As a rule, no direct treatment of this disease can take place. Most patients are dependent on various training and therapies designed to promote memory. However, it cannot be predicted whether this will lead to a positive course of the disease. Those affected may have to live with this condition for the rest of their lives. Due to the blindness of the soul, no statement can be made about life expectancy either. However, this is rarely restricted by the disease.
When should you go to the doctor?
In most cases, a doctor must be consulted in the case of mental blindness. This disease cannot heal itself, so those affected are usually always dependent on medical treatment. An early diagnosis of mental blindness has a positive effect on the further course of the disease. A doctor should be consulted if the person affected shows changes in their behavior. The patients no longer recognize familiar faces, voices or smells or can no longer correctly identify them.
There is also severe depression or other mental upsets. If these symptoms persist and do not go away on their own, a doctor must be consulted. In most cases, mental blindness is treated by a psychologist. In serious cases, treatment in a closed clinic may be necessary. Since mental blindness is a largely unexplored disease, a universal course cannot be predicted.
Treatment & Therapy
Depending on the symptoms, complaints and findings, neurologists, speech therapists and occupational therapists take care of the patients. In addition to therapies that specifically promote language and memory skills, simple measures such as motivated self-training by the patient are sometimes successful in making everyday life easier and reducing embarrassing situations when a person you know is not recognized. The person concerned can train themselves to perceive certain personal characteristics.
She can practice identifying the people around her through external features she knows, such as voice, size, hairstyle, hair color, style of clothing, figure and other individual characteristics. Pressure is removed from patients when they are open about their illness and inform those around them about this neurological disorder.
Since even neurologists and brain researchers are not yet completely clear about how this neurological perception disorder develops, there is no clinical prevention that excludes a disease.
The disease has a significant impact on the environment of those affected. Familiar people and objects can often no longer be recognized. Likewise, those affected can no longer read. Simple everyday tasks can no longer be carried out independently by those affected. For this reason, the help of relatives and friends must be enlisted.
The disease can be very distressing for those affected. Therefore, it is recommended to consult a psychologist in addition to the neurologist. This can help those affected to deal with the disease and the feelings it causes. Those affected should pursue all activities that make them happy.
Every effort should be made to prevent depression. For example, outdoor sports should be practiced. This has a positive effect on the well-being of patients. Sport also supports the immune system. Likewise, the lifestyle of the disease should be adapted.
A healthy diet and avoiding alcohol and nicotine have a positive effect on the disease. The diet should contain a lot of fruit and vegetables and fat and sugar should be avoided as much as possible. In order for those affected to be able to seek help from family members, they should be sufficiently informed about the disease. This can avoid unnecessary stress.
You can do that yourself
This rare form of perceptual disorder can affect anyone. However, their effect on the social environment is fatal, since even well-known people or everyday objects are no longer recognizable. Other skills, such as reading, may also be affected. The affected patients usually need help to cope with their everyday life.
This can be very stressful for both those affected and their families. It is therefore advisable to consult a psychologist in addition to a neurologist for medical care. In addition, all measures that are known to prevent depression are recommended. Above all, this includes sport, especially if it is carried out outdoors. Fresh air and exercise not only support the immune system, but also bring balance and a good mood. At the same time, the patient has a sense of achievement that can compensate for the deficits of mental blindness.
Recent research shows that a healthy diet also has a positive impact on mental health. Soul-blind patients would do well to avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, and avoiding excess fat and sugar. Instead, focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and oils rich in omega-3.
It is also helpful for patients if they deal aggressively with their illness and inform those around them about any existing deficits. This prevents misunderstandings and can avoid unnecessary stress.