When Faces Turn Demonic: The Rare Disorder of Prosopometamorphopsia

When Faces Turn Demonic: The Rare Disorder of Prosopometamorphopsia
When Faces Turn Demonic: The Rare Disorder of Prosopometamorphopsia

Prosopometamorphopsia: A Rare Disorder That Distorts Human Faces

Victor Sharrah, a 59-year-old Tennessee resident, has been diagnosed with prosopometamorphopsia (PMO), an extremely rare neurological disorder that causes human faces to appear distorted, resembling demonic figures.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

PMO affects perception, causing faces to appear grotesquely distorted. Individuals with PMO recognize that their vision is unusual and do not believe that the world is distorted. Victor's symptoms began abruptly in November 2020, when he awoke to see his roommate's face as a "Star Trek" demon.

Prevalence and Misdiagnosis

Fewer than 100 cases of PMO have been reported since 1904. The condition is often misdiagnosed as a mental health issue, such as schizophrenia or psychosis. Experts believe that PMO is underreported due to misdiagnosis and the reluctance of patients to disclose their symptoms.

Understanding PMO

Researchers believe that PMO is linked to dysfunction in the brain network responsible for facial processing. However, the exact triggers for this dysfunction remain unknown. While some patients have a history of head trauma, stroke, or migraines, others do not show any structural brain abnormalities.

Victor's Case and Scientific Insights

Victor's case has provided valuable insights into PMO. Scientists were able to recreate the distorted faces he sees by digitally modifying photographs based on his descriptions. This study allowed researchers to gain a glimpse into the world from the perspective of someone with PMO.

Potential Triggers

In Victor's case, two possible triggers have been identified: carbon monoxide poisoning four months prior to his PMO symptoms and a left-sided brain injury at age 43. Some individuals with PMO report experiencing demonic faces since childhood, indicating that the disorder may not always have an identifiable trigger.

Green Light as an Alleviator

An unexpected aspect of PMO is that green light seems to alleviate Victor's symptoms. While scientists do not yet understand why, Victor wears green-tinted glasses in crowds to help him see faces normally instead of the distorted images.

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