Urgent warning issued as Long Covid could stop people recognising family faces

Long-term effects of having had Covid-19 could include failing to recognise faces of friends and family, a new study has found.

The worrying new claims come from experts at Ivy League university Dartmouth College, US, who worked with a 28-year-old woman called Annie – not her real name – who contracted the virus at the start of the pandemic in March, 2020.

She claimed, along with 50 other patients surveyed, that she was having a hard time identifying faces since first becoming ill.

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Annie actually suffered what the experts called a “symptom relapse” two months after first contracting Covid.

She said: “It was as if my dad's voice came out of a stranger's face.”

The exact terminology for this is called “prosopagnosia”, which is also known as face blindness or facial agnosia.

Annie also claimed to have suffered issues with navigation and remembering where certain items – such as her car – were left.

Brad Duchaine, a professor of psychological and brain sciences and principal investigator of the Social Perception Lab at Dartmouth said, in the study published in Cortex : “The combination of prosopagnosia and navigational deficits that Annie had is something that caught our attention because the two deficits often go hand in hand after somebody either has had brain damage or developmental deficits.

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“That co-occurrence is probably due to the two abilities depending on neighbouring brain regions in the temporal lobe.”

Annie was put through rigorous testing, one of which involved being shown 48 famous faces.

Normally, members of the public can identify 84% of them, but Annie could only figure out 29%.

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Mr Duchaine added: “It's been known that there are broad cognitive problems that can be caused by COVID-19, but here we're seeing severe and highly selective problems in Annie, and that suggests there might be a lot of other people who have quite severe and selective deficits following COVID.

“As far as we know, nobody's measured the sorts of high level, visual processing abilities that are affected by COVID-19 that we focused on, so if it's happening in the visual system, it's likely that selective deficits due to problems in other brain areas are occurring in some people as well."

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