Cerebral Hemispheres 2


In the Eye of the Beholder

Imagine you are at work one morning, sitting at your desk (or wherever you may sit at work), and someone begins walking toward you. You look up and their face is a blur, a completely featureless void that gives you no indication who they might be. You examine their gait, their clothing, and their body shape. This tells you they are a man, but everything else is so nondescript you don’t know if he’s your boss, a visitor, or a co-worker from down the hall. You anxiously look down, hoping the person won’t notice your confusion, as it would seem quite strange since you’ve worked there for years. Only when you hear his voice do you realize he is a friend, simply interested in what you are doing for lunch.

Welcome to the world of a prosopagnosiac. People who suffer from prosopagnosia have an inability to recognize faces. The cause of the disorder, also known as face blindness, is most often some sort of brain damage, such as a tumor or lesion, but there are also congenital cases. A 2006 survey suggested that up to 2% of the population may suffer from prosopagnosia. The severity of the disorder can vary from a subtle blurring of features to the complete inability to recognize faces (even one’s own face) as described in the paragraph above. Prosopagnosiacs often learn to cope with their affliction by focusing on other features of a person that make them recognizable, such as body size, voice, or style of dress. Thus, the account above is slightly dramatized, as an inured prosopagnosiac probably would have been able to recognize a friend based on some of these other qualities before hearing his voice.

Prosopagnosia is a fascinating disorder for many reasons, but perhaps what makes it most amazing to neuroscientists is its specificity. For a long time scientists didn’t know if there were areas of the brain—or individual neurons—so specialized that, when damaged, they could impair only one distinct skill. As prosopagnosia is an example of such a case, it has contributed to our modern understanding of the brain.

Prosopagnosia appears to result from damage to an area in the temporal and occipital lobes called the fusiform gyrus. Neuroimaging studies have identified a specific region of the fusiform gyrus that is activated when a subject views a person’s face. It resultantly came to be named the fusiform face area (FFA). There has been some dispute over whether the FFA is activated only in facial recognition, but its role in seeing faces is well documented. A recent study conducted with prosopagnosiacs demonstrated that the FFA is also used when recognizing beauty in a face. While the brain is amazing for its complex interactions between its various parts, it is also interesting (and sometimes frightening) to realize just how functionally specific some of those parts are.


Sleep. Memory. Pleasure. Fear. Language. We experience these things every day, but how do our brains create them? Your Brain, Explained is a personal tour around your gray matter. Building on neuroscientist Marc Dingman’s popular YouTube series, 2-Minute Neuroscience, this is a friendly, engaging introduction to the human brain and its quirks using real-life examples and Dingman’s own, hand-drawn illustrations.

  • Dingman weaves classic studies with modern research into easily digestible sections, to provide an excellent primer on the rapidly advancing field of neuroscience. - Moheb Costandi, author, Neuroplasticity and 50 Human Brain Ideas You Really Need to Know

  • An informative, accessible and engaging book for anyone who has even the slightest interest in how the brain works, but doesn’t know where to begin. - Dean Burnett, PhD, author, Happy Brain and Idiot Brain

  • ...a highly readable and accessible introduction to the operation of the brain and current issues in neuroscience... a wonderful introduction to the field. - Frank Amthor, PhD, Professor of Psychology, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, author, Neuroscience for Dummies

  • Reading like a collection of detective stories, Your Brain, Explained combines classic cases in the history of neurology with findings stemming from the latest techniques used to probe the brain’s secrets. - Stanley Finger, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Psychological & Brain Sciences, Washington University (St. Louis), author, Origins of Neuroscience


This book shows a whole other side of how brains work by examining the most unusual behavior to emerge from the human brain. In it, you'll meet a woman who is afraid to take a shower because she fears her body will slip down the drain, a man who is convinced he is a cat, a woman who compulsively snacks on cigarette ashes, and many other unusual cases. As uncommon as they are, each of these cases has something important to teach us about everyday brain function.

  • A unique combination of storytelling and scientific explanation that appeals to the brain novice, the trained neuroscientist, and everyone in between. Dingman explores some of the most fascinating and mysterious expressions of human behavior in a style that is case study, dramatic novel, and introductory textbook all rolled into one. - Alison Kreisler, PhD, Neuroscience Instructor, California State University, San Marcos

  • Bizarre is a collection of stories of how the brain can create zombies, cult members, extra limbs, instant musicians, and overnight accents, to name a few of the mind-scratching cases. After reading this book, you will walk away with a greater appreciation for this bizarre organ. If you are a fan of Oliver Sacks' books, you're certain to be a fan of Dingman's Bizarre. - Allison M. Wilck, PhD, Researcher and Assistant Professor of Psychology, Eastern Mennonite University

  • Through case studies of both exceptional people as well as those with disorders, Bizarre takes us on a fascinating journey in which we learn more about what is going on in our skull. - William J. Ray, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University, author, Abnormal Psychology

  • Dingman brings the history of neuroscience back to life and weaves in contemporary ideas seamlessly. Readers will come along for the ride of a really interesting read and accidentally learn some neuroscience along the way. - Erin Kirschmann, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology & Counseling, Immaculata University