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What is prosopometamorphopsia, a rare disorder that causes visions of “demonic” forms?

He thought he was going crazy. Victor Sciarra, a 58-year-old American, remembers the day when the faces of passersby seemed distorted to him as he walked his dog down the street. “My first thought was that I woke up in a demon world,” he told AFP. I started to panic. » The chef was not “completely crazy”, as he initially thought.

In fact, he suffers from a rare vision disorder, prosopometamorphopsia (PMO), like about ten other people around the world.

Symptoms of prosopometamorphopsia

Symptoms are mainly characterized by distortions in visual perception. They concern not only shape, but also size, color and even the position of facial features. Some see one half of a face underneath the other, others see faces in constant motion, others see green or purple shapes.

Unlike other patients suffering from the same disorder, Victor Sciarra is able to see objects such as cars or objects without distortion. It also correctly distinguishes faces when they are in two dimensions, in photographs or on a screen.

It was thanks to this that scientists from Dartmouth College (USA) were able to create images of his perceptions. His case was the subject of publication in the prestigious journal Lancet. Specifically, the researchers asked the patient to describe the differences he saw between the face of a physically present person and a corresponding photograph presented to him on a computer screen.

Little known reasons

If from the side of symptoms we see a little better, then from the origin the situation is different. The causes of prosopometamorphopsia are still very poorly understood. In most cases, “there was something going on in the brain that correlated with this abnormal experience,” says Jason Barton, a neuroscientist at the University of British Columbia.

Either way, the study sheds light on a little-known and underdiagnosed disease. “Many patients with PMO are actually misdiagnosed as schizophrenia by psychiatrists and given antipsychotic medications even though their condition affects the visual system,” says study author Brad Duchaine. The symptoms, which are equally terrifying for patients, require different treatments.

Source: Le Parisien

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