Do I know you?

Dissertation hell. OK, I say hell – it’s not that terrible. I could probably have made it a bit easier on myself by starting work in earnest a bit earlier in the year, but what’s done is done and I might as well just have a long hard slog now.

If you’ve read previous blog posts, then you will be aware that I’m writing my dissertation about a rare brain disorder called prosopagnosia – prosopagnosia is an inability to recognise people’s faces. I’ve been designing a battery of tests to test the extent of my patient’s deficits, including some face recognition tests, but also some voice and semantics tests, to see if her recognition problems run further than faces.

Designing the famous faces tests were fairly straight forward – google image search is a wonderful thing, and I am a dab-hand with photoshop (for cutting out the oval of the face – not for warping anything!). The only thing I struggled with there was actually just thinking up the names of enough famous people. I am useless with names.

Image from KatyB Photography


The semantics test was a little harder, although almost done – for that, the same problem applies, in that I’ve had to think up the names of 48 of each politicians, musicians, actors and sports personalities.

Finally, voice recognition. This is proving a real pain in the neck. Firstly, audio manipulation is not my “bag” – if anyone knows of a simple way to cut out a snippet of a sound clip, please let me know.

The second problem with finding suitable sound clips is the content of those clips – if I wanted the participant to identify a clip of Arnold Schwarzenegger speaking, I would want them to identify him by his VOICE, not by what he’s saying – it might well be that they know his films well, and could recognise the quote “I’ll be back”, but not necessarily by his own unique voice. So I have to be careful of the content of the clip – if I have a clip of Gordon Brown talking about the financial crisis, the participant might deduce “politics – Scottish male speaker – must be Brown”. That’s not the skill I’m looking to identify.

But on the bright side, once my tests are designed, the fun begins (ha ha). I can start running tests – I have one case study to test, and then I need preferably 10 age-matched female controls. In case you’re keen to help me with my research, you need to be between 37-47, female, white British and able to meet me in London for testing some time over the next couple of weeks. No time wasters 😉

Then the write-up begins, then I submit the draft for marking, then the re-write, then (hopefully!!) I graduate and then…? Then, ladies and gentleman, I likely have a nervous breakdown. Ha ha.

I’ll keep you posted.

Further Reading:

How The Brain Processes Faces


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