Why people with Alzheimer's stop recognizing their loved ones

  • A finding that Alzheimer's sufferers' failure to recognize familiar faces is rooted in an impairment in holistic perception rather than memory loss, suggests new strategies to help patients recognize their loved ones for longer.

People with Alzheimer's disease develop problems in recognizing familiar faces. It has been thought that this is just part of their general impairment, but a new study indicates that a specific, face-related impairment develops early in the disease. This impairment has to do with the recognition of a face as a whole.

Face recognition has two aspects to it: holistic (seeing the face as a whole) and featural (processing individual features of the face). While both are useful in object recognition, expert recognition (and face recognition is usually something humans are expert in) is built on a shift from featural to holistic processing.

The study compared the ability of people with mild Alzheimer's and healthy age- and education-matched seniors to recognize faces and cars in photos that were either upright or upside down. It found that those with Alzheimer's performed comparably to the control group in processing the upside-down faces and cars. This type of processing requires an analysis of the various features. Those with Alzheimer’s also performed normally in recognizing upright cars (car experts are likely to use holistic processing, but those with less expertise will depend more on featural processing). However, they were much slower and less accurate in recognizing faces.

Realizing that impaired facial recognition is based on a holistic perception problem, rather than being simply another failure of memory, suggests that strategies such as focusing on particular facial features or on voice recognition may help patients recognize their loved ones for longer.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-04/uom-wdp040816.php

Reference: 

Related News

A small study has found that a 12-week exercise program significantly improved cognition in both older adults with

A clinical trial involving 9361 older adults (50+) with hypertension but without diabetes or history of stroke has found that intensive control of blood pressure significantly reduced the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment.

Survey data from 6,807 Danish older adults (average age 60) in the Copenhagen City Heart Study, has found that being distressed in late midlife is associated with a higher risk of dementia in later life.

Poor sleep has been associated with Alzheimer's disease risk, but a new study suggests a specific aspect of sleep is important.

Data from 1,215 older adults, of whom 173 (14%) were African-American, has found that, although brain scans showed no significant differences between black and white participants,

One important reason for the greater cognitive problems commonly experienced as we age, is our increasing difficulty in ignoring distracting and irrelevant information. But it may be that in some circumstances that propensity can be used to help memory.

A number of studies have found that physical exercise can help delay the onset of dementia, however the ability of exercise to slow the decline once dementia has set in is a more equivocal question. A large new study answers this question in the negative.

Do older adults forget as much as they think, or is it rather that they ‘misremember’?

A Finnish study involving over 1000 older adults suggests that a counselling program can prevent cognitive decline even among those with the Alzheimer’s gene.

A pilot study involving 106 participants of the Rush Memory and Aging Project who had experienced a stroke followed participants for an average of 5.9 years, testing their cognitive function and monitoring their eating habits using food journals.

Pages

Subscribe to Latest newsSubscribe to Latest newsSubscribe to Latest health newsSubscribe to Latest news