The woman who looked at faces and saw dragons

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In July 2011, a woman presented at a psychiatric clinic in the Netherlands reporting something truly bizarre: for her entire life she’d seen multiple peoples’ faces change into dragon-like faces – an hallucination that occurred many times a day.

 

“She could perceive and recognise actual faces, but after several minutes they turned black, grew long, pointy ears and a protruding snout, and displayed a reptiloid skin and huge eyes in bright yellow, green, blue, or red,” the research team wrote in The Lancet in 2014. 

“She saw similar dragon-like faces drifting towards her many times a day from the walls, electrical sockets, or the computer screen, in both the presence and absence of face-like patterns, and at night she saw many dragon-like faces in the dark.”

The 52-year-old was suffering from what’s known as prosopometamorphopsia; a psychiatric disorder in which faces appear distorted.

The researchers couldn’t work out what was causing this to occur. They performed a host of different brain scans including MRI, electroencephalogram (EEG), and neurological examinations, as well as blood tests. All were normal. 

“We see with the eyes but we see with the brain as well,” well-known British neurologist Oliver Sacks says in a TED talk.

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