What is prosopometamorphopsia?

Answer: Prosopometamorphopsia is a rare facial processing disorder that results in the person seeing distorted faces.

dragon prosopometamorphopsia

The brain has a unique capability for recognizing and processing facial information. It relies on the fusiform gyrus and higher areas of the visual cortex, including the ventral occipitotemporal pathway. When there is damage to these facial processing areas, visual hallucinations like prosopometamorphopsia may occur.

Patients with this disorder experience faces differently. In their words: “a nose was turned
sideways by several degrees, one eyebrow was higher than the
other…” (Bodamer, 1947). One woman perceived faces that turned into dragons: “Black, grew long, pointy ears and a protruding snout, and displayed a reptiloid skin and huge eyes in bright yellow, green, blue, or red.” (Prosopometamorphopsia and facial hallucinations.)

Most scientists are unsure what changes in the brain lead to prosopometamorphopsia. In an fMRI experiment of a single patient, minor differences were observed in the right fusiform area, right occipital face area, and right lateral occipital cortex (Spontaneous perceptual facial distortions correlate with ventral occipitotemporal activity.).

Valproate, the antiepileptic drug, was prescribed to the patient who saw dragons. It has decreased the visual hallucinations. Rivastigmine was also effective in decreasing her symptoms. (Blom, 2014.)