If the faces of passers-by look like “demons”, you have a rare disease: study

Look at FacesHave you ever looked at someone's face and seen it become grotesquely distorted? For people with prosopometamorphopsia (PMO), a rare neurological disease, this is not a nightmare, but a reality. DiscussIf the faces of passers-by look like © Ferra

A new study by Dartmouth researchers offers the first-ever accurate visualization of what people with PMO experience. Derived from the Greek words for “face” and “distortion of perception,” the disease causes faces to appear stretched out, distorted, and even “demonic.”

The study details the unique case of a 58-year-old man who experiences PMO only in person. Faces on screens and paper look normal, which allowed the researchers to use a clever technique to capture the distortion.

They showed the patient a real face and a photo of the same person on a computer screen. The patient provided feedback in real time while the researchers manipulated the photo using software to bring it into line with his perceived distortions. This unique approach circumvented the limitations of previous studies, where patients perceived distortions even in imaging.

If the faces of passers-by look like “demons”, you have a rare disease: study

© A. Mello et al./Dartmouth College

The resulting images are stunning, demonstrating the patient's distorted perception. This breakthrough could not only improve diagnostics, but also increase public awareness.