Monday, March 23, 2015

Remediating developmental prosopagnosia

What do Oliver Sacks and Carl Kruszelnicki have in common? Developmental prosopagnosia - both of them admit to marked difficulty in recognizing faces.

I've recently had a look into the issue of remediation of  prosopagnosia and while it appears that acquired prosopagnosia is difficult to treat, developmental prosopagnosia is much easier to remedy. There is interesting article in on-line Brain:

DeGutis, J., Cohan S., Ken Nakayama, Ken (2014).  Holistic face training enhances face processing in developmental prosopagnosia. Brain.
Prosopagnosia has largely been regarded as an untreatable disorder. However, recent case studies using cognitive training have shown that it is possible to enhance face recognition abilities in individuals with developmental prosopagnosia. Our goal was to determine if this approach could be effective in a larger population of developmental prosopagnosics. We trained 24 developmental prosopagnosics using a 3-week online face-training program targeting holistic face processing. Twelve subjects with developmental prosopagnosia were assessed before and after training, and the other 12 were assessed before and after a waiting period, they then performed the training, and were then assessed again. The assessments included measures of front-view face discrimination, face discrimination with view-point changes, measures of holistic face processing, and a 5-day diary to quantify potential real-world improvements. Compared with the waiting period, developmental prosopagnosics showed moderate but significant overall training-related improvements on measures of front-view face discrimination. Those who reached the more difficult levels of training (‘better’ trainees) showed the strongest improvements in front-view face discrimination and showed significantly increased holistic face processing to the point of being similar to that of unimpaired control subjects. Despite challenges in characterizing developmental prosopagnosics’ everyday face recognition and potential biases in self-report, results also showed modest but consistent self-reported diary improvements. In summary, we demonstrate that by using cognitive training that targets holistic processing, it is possible to enhance face perception across a group of developmental prosopagnosics and further suggest that those who improved the most on the training task received the greatest benefits.

Full text:

The following links were also interesting:

In practice, I know of two commercial programs that could be used:

1. FaceSay - which retrains face recognition, emotion recognition and following gaze - aimed at helping  autistic kids (has some research proving that it improves behaviour in the playground)
2. A subtest of BrainHQ called Recognition that could be used for training for adults and potentially non-autistic children.


News update

Some news:

- I've just discovered that I had over 1000 page views last month. Well, well.

- I'm looking forward to a review of a virtual reality tool for testing attention in children promised by a lovely neuropsychologist from Sydney -stay tuned

- I am playing with the Vienna Test System which has got a gorgeous suite of tests of various aspects of attention and other goodies.  There are some technical difficulties, but I am getting through them, and as soon as I've played enough I'll publish a review.

- I am also planning to review MicroCog suggested by Arthur Shores, but need to research it first. Is there anybody routinely using it that would be willing to write a review?

- I've decided to start publishing news about brain training again. There are too many interesting things happening in that area. For example, Melbourne's Florey Institute, University of Melbourne and the ABC have issued a new brain training program aimed at the elderly: ABC Active Memory. It is fairly widely advertised, and we should expect our older clients to have tried it. We need to be aware that it uses both a modified form of STROOP and Trail Making Test. I think that soon the Trail Making Test will become useless for purposes of assessment. Having said that, the tasks in the ABC Active Memory are rather cleverly constructed and worth a look. For example, the highest level of Trail Making Test has letters, numbers and dots on dice.



Friday, March 6, 2015

How about getting the computer to do the WAIS?

Prof Arthur Shores alerted me to two computerized tools that he believes are under utilised in Australia. One of them is MAB II. I have to admit that while the name rings some distant bells, I have not looked at this test before.

And I should have.

This test is incredibly similar to the WAIS, with the following subtests:

Verbal: Information, Comprehension, Arithmetic, Similarities, Vocabulary
Performance: Digit Symbol, Picture Completion, Spatial, Picture Arrangement, Object Assembly

It is for adults 16+ and has a multiple choice response format. It has been used by the NASA and in selection of pilots, as well as in research.

It computes VIQ, PIQ and FSIQ and can be administered individually, in groups or on a computer. It appears to be an analogue to WAIS-R, with no separate WMI and PRI indexes, but it seems to do what it does quite well:

The normative group consisted of 1600 subjects (2200 for WAIS-IV), in 9 age groups (13 for WAIS-IV)

Test-retest reliability is .95 for VIQ, .96 for PIQ and .97 for FSIQ
For WAIS-IV it is .95 for VCI, .85 for PRI and .95 for FSIQ

Internal consistency is .87, while WAIS has internal consistencies in the .90s, so it scores somewhat worse there.

What I really wanted to know is how close it is to WAIS, but haven't found it on the internet apart from the statement from the test creators that said:

Correlations between the MAB II and a widely used individual IQ measure are:
Full Scale = .91
Performance correlation = .79
Verbal correlation = .94
I have a sneaking suspicion that they refer to WAIS-R, but cannot be sure.

I also want to know how I managed not to know that there is a reasonable computerised IQ test around. Shame on me.

I'm sure that this test won't work in all situations, and that we'll naturally default to WAIS for most of our clinical needs. But I believe that there are assessments that can be done using MAB II instead. I would argue, for example, that it beats short forms of the WAIS.

Arthur sent me several articles in which MAB II has been used, together with MicroCog (this one is for another post) to track some relatively subtle cognitive changes. This seems like a good test.

I have not (yet!) bought it, so cannot comment on the ease of use. Do people use it? How smooth is it? What populations do you use it with? Please let us know in the comments



Thursday, March 5, 2015

Reading difficulties

Just a quick mention of interest to those of us who work in learning difficulties:

Fitzroy Readers are now available as an app.

This is a good series of readers that use the phonic approach.
If you want to read more, here is further info:

Also, my npinoz request for information about computerised testing was very fruitful and I've learned about some really useful tools: look out for posts in the near future.