▸ Face recognition is a complex multicomponential process. ▸ Previous evidence suggests that deprivation amblyopia affects face recognition. ▸ Strabismic amblyopia is also known to affect low and high visual areas. ▸ Strabismic amblyopia selectively impaired configural processing of faces.
The ability to identify faces is of critical importance for normal social interactions. Previous evidence suggests that early visual deprivation may impair certain aspects of face recognition. The effects of strabismic amblyopia on face processing have not been investigated previously. In this study, a group of individuals with amblyopia were administered two tasks known to selectively measure face detection based on a Gestalt representation of a face (Mooney faces task) and featural and relational processing of faces (Jane faces task). Our data show that – when relying on their amblyopic eye only – strabismic amblyopes perform as well as normally sighted individuals in face detection and recognition on the basis of their single features. However, they are significantly impaired in discriminating among different faces on the basis of the spacing of their single features (i.e., configural processing of relational information). Our findings are the first to demonstrate that strabismic amblyopia may cause specific deficits in face recognition, and add to previous reports characterizing visual perceptual deficits associated in amblyopia as high-level and not only as low-level processing.