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Alzheimer’s Care | September 13, 2013 | By Jonita Dixon

Study Reveals Famous Faces can Promote Early Diagnosis of Dementia

Study Reveals Famous Faces can Promote Early Diagnosis of DementiaA recent study published by the American Academy of Neurology in their journal, Neurology, has revealed that early signs of dementia can be identified by an individual’s inability to recognize famous faces. This new finding can prove useful in the early diagnosis and treatment of dementia, opening doors for effective treatment plans. It could be a breakthrough in the field of neurology and neurodegenerative diseases.

Study on early onset of dementia

The study involved a group of 30 participants who were living with progressive aphasia, which is a form of early-onset dementia that mostly affects language skills. Along with this group, 27 individuals without dementia also participated in the study. The average age of the participants in this study was 62.

In the study, participants were made to see pictures of famous people like Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Elvis Presley, Lucille Ball, Albert Einstein, and Princess Diana. Those who could identify the famous faces by name were then asked to give a description of who these people were. Once this stage of the study was concluded, all participants had to undergo MRI brain scans.

What the study revealed

When the researchers compared the results of each group, it was found that the group comprising of individuals living with early onset dementia was significantly worse than the other group in identifying famous faces. It was also discovered that individuals who found it difficult to name the famous faces also had a higher chance of developing brain tissue loss in the brain’s left temporal lobe. Those who were unable to recognize the famous faces at all had an increased risk of developing tissue loss in both the left and right lobes of the brain.

According to Emily Rogalski, the assistant research professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center, it is not about forgetting a famous person or two. Rogalski stated that individuals living with early onset dementia consistently forget the names of famous people whom they once knew.

The Northwestern University Famous Faces Test was created by the Northwestern Team, using famous faces that are likely to be recognized by 40-60 year old Americans.Rogalski believes that this simple test can become a useful tool for doctors to evaluate their patients and identify the areas of thinking that may be compromised in them.

Using the Northwestern University Famous Faces Test

The lead author of the study, Tamar Gefen stated that the famous faces used in the test should be updated regularly to make it relevant for the younger generation. However, people should avoid diagnosing themselves by simply looking at the list of famous people. The diagnosis of early-onset dementia is quite complex and should be done by a professional. The famous names you can find in the Northwestern University Famous Faces Test also include Pope John Paul II, George W. Bush, Liza Minnelli, Barbra Streisand, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Ronald Reagan, and Queen Elizabeth II.

Caregivers should make it a point to pay close attention to their elderly family members and their ability to recognize famous faces on T.V and in magazines. You should also make the smart move of familiarizing yourselves with the early signs and symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.