The case study, reported in the online issue of the journal Neuropsychologia, is of a woman who is unable to recognise people by their voice, including her own daughter whom she has great difficulty identifying over the phone. The woman, known as KH, avoids answering the phone where possible, and for many years has only answered ‘booked calls’.
KH books calls with friends or co-workers, so she knows who to expect when the telephone rings at a certain time. In the 1980s, KH had a job in which she introduced herself with a different form of her first name so she would know that it was someone related to her job when they called and asked for her using that name.
KH, a 60-year old successful professional woman, was aware from an early age that there was something she couldn’t do that others clearly could. But it was only when reading an article in a popular science magazine years later that KH finally understood her lifelong problem. The article discussed prosopagnosia, a condition where people have severe difficulty recognising faces. KH realized she might have the vocal analogue of prosopagnosia, and contacted the magazine, who put her in touch with UCL’s Dr Brad Duchaine.
Dr Brad Duchaine, co-author of the paper, says: “Occasionally, people have experienced problems recognising voices following a stroke or brain damage, but this is the first documented case of someone growing up with this condition. We suspect that there are other people out there with similar problems, and we'd like to get in touch with them. If you think you might be phonagnosic, please contact us.”
“Voice recognition may not seem as important as face recognition, given that failing to recognise someone in front of you can cause much more social anxiety than not recognising them over the phone. Yet we rely on voice recognition in our day-to-day lives, to identify people on the phone or those speaking on the radio.”
In the study, Dr Duchaine and Lucia Garrido of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience presented KH with a series of tasks involving the recognition of faces, voices, vocal emotions, speech perception and music. KH struggled to recognise the voices of famous actors and politicians, and also had difficulty learning and recognising new voices. Compared to a control group of volunteers, nearly all of whom identified the voices of Margaret Thatcher, David Beckham, Dawn French, Chris Tarrant, Joanna Lumley, Sean Connery and Ann Widdecombe, KH was only able to identify the voice of Sean Connery.
However, KH performed well on nearly all other tasks. For example, in a test involving emotional sounds - achievement/triumph, amusement, anger, disgust, fear, pleasure, relief, sadness and surprise - KH could identify the emotional state of the person speaking roughly 80 per cent of the time, similar to the control group. KH also did well on all music tasks, identifying famous tunes and discriminating between instruments. KH says that she is able to enjoy and appreciate music, though she usually doesn’t recognize singers.
Phonagnosia has only been documented so far in people with brain lesions in the right hemisphere following a stroke or brain damage, and the mechanisms behind it are not well understood. In KH’s case, a MRI brain scan showed no evidence of brain damage in regions associated with voice or auditory perception, and her hearing abilities were found to be normal.
Jenny Gimpel | alfa
WAKE-UP provides new treatment option for stroke patients | International study led by UKE
17.05.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf
First form of therapy for childhood dementia CLN2 developed
25.04.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences