HealthDay News — Patients with primary progressive aphasia, a type of young-onset clinical dementia, have difficulty naming and recognizing famous faces due to cortical atrophy in particular brain areas.

Now a simple test called the Northwestern University Famous Faces (NUFFACE) Test may aid in diagnosing the condition, results of a small study indicate.

Patients with primary progressive aphasia performed significantly worse on the test than controls, both for face recognition (79% vs. 97%) and face naming (46% vs. 93%), according to Emily Rogalski, PhD, from Northwestern University in Chicago, and colleagues.

Continue Reading

They administered the test to 30 patients with primary progressive aphasia and 27 controls free of dementia (mean age, 62 years for both groups) to examine patients’ ability to name versus recognize famous faces such as John F. Kennedy and Princess Diana. The two groups also underwent magnetic resonance imaging to determine cortical thickness. Study finding were reported in Neurology.

Patients with primary progressive aphasia displayed significant impairment on the NUFFACE Test, the researchers found, suggesting the tool is “a useful measure of famous-face identification for individuals with relatively young-onset dementias.”

Impaired face recognition was associated with bitemporal cortical atrophy, whereas impaired face naming was associated with cortical atrophy of the left anterior temporal lobe, data indicated.

“In addition to their clinical relevance for highlighting the distinction between face naming and recognition impairments in individuals with young-onset dementia, these findings add new insights into the dissociable clinico-anatomical substrates of lexical retrieval and object knowledge,” the researchers conclude.


  1. Gefen T et al. Neurology. 2013; 81(7):658-664.