Crested Butte, CO -7 Feb. 2009- Staff. Ray Kotlyar looks like a normal 26 year old man. He works as a mechanic is this rural Colorado town and has a wife and family. But due to a tragic grain thresher accident several years ago, he suffers from a rare condition known as prosopagnosia, or the inability to recognize faces. An extra rarity, however, is that Ray can recognize people based on their groin.
“Everybody is a bit different, and if you stop and think of it, the face is really sort of random. Why not the hands or arms or groin,” responded Kotlyar. “I’m not so different.”
He says that just as regular people analyze faces based on eye position, wrinkles, the shape of the mouth and other minute physcial features, he can see subtle differences in the crotch. “You see a fold that always falls this certain way, or an extra bagginess. Telling men from women, of course is pretty easy. ”
But Kotlyar’s ability goes far beyond any exceptional powers of observation. In an impromptu trial with three reporters and seven pairs of pants, Kotlyar scored 100% each and every time. “You can’t hide from me in those corduroys,” he joked.
Dr. Mila Severin, Adjunct Faculty Chief of Cognitive Neuroscience at Rutgers University, was not familiar with Kotlyar’s case, but confirmed that many patients with agnosia, commonly defined as the inability to recognize familiar objects, find that their perception is altered in surprising ways. “The crotch, no, I would not have expected that, but when the brain is damaged, it will often result in new connections and unexpected ability,” she said.
Though his inability to recognize his own wife’s face can be a handicap, Kotlyar was upbeat about his situation. “Everybody’s got a face, sure, but everybody has a crotch, too. Even stevens.”