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Sense of humour may help diagnose dementia in early stages

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Posted November 18, 2015

Sense of humour is a unique characteristic of human race. Not only it makes it pleasant to be with a person who has a good sense of humour, but it also indicates the mental health status. Now scientists at the University College London have conducted a study, which shows that changing sense of humour may be an indication of dementia.

Changing sense of humour may indicate Alzheimer’s or frontotemporal dementia as yearly as 9 years before other signs of dementia are observable. Image credit: The Photographer via Wikimedia, CC-Zero

Changing sense of humour may indicate Alzheimer’s or frontotemporal dementia as yearly as 9 years before other signs of dementia are observable. Image credit: The Photographer via Wikimedia, CC-Zero

Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia, but the frontotemporal dementia is the most common cause of dementia of people younger than 55. Frontotemporal dementia is also harder to diagnose as memory difficulties are not an early indicator of it. This is why the research may help developing new diagnosis techniques.

Scientists found that patients with behavioural variant of frontotemporal dementia experience changing sense of humour. These changes included laughing at events others would not find funny such as a badly parked car or barking dog. Patients of behavioural variant of frontotemporal dementia also laugh at tragic events on the news or in their personal life, which is not observed with patients of Alzheimer’s.

However, scientists discovered similarities between these two causes of dementia. Patients of both conditions, compared to healthy people of similar age, prefer slapstick humour to satirical and absurdist humour. Researchers think this may have real diagnostic potential, because these changes in the sense of humour are visible as early as 9 years prior to more typical dementia symptoms.

Dr Camilla Clark, leader of the study, said: “We’ve highlighted the need to shift the emphasis from dementia being solely about memory loss. These findings have implications for diagnosis – not only should personality and behaviour changes ring alarm bells, but clinicians themselves need to be more aware of these symptoms as an early sign of dementia”.

This shows that not all traits of personality are yet explored and not entire potential possibilities of early diagnosis are known. We have to wait and see how soon changing sense of humour will be regarded as an indicator of dementia, but this study shows promise that Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia could be diagnosed years before other symptoms are visible.

Source: UCL

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