Face test for early dementia detection

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Images of famous people are said to help in the early diagnosis of dementia

A simple test to identify famous people like Albert Einstein, Elvis Presley, Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey "can help doctors recognize dementia early," reports Northwestern University in a recent press release. Tamar Gefen, doctoral student at Northwestern University, developed the so-called "Northwestern University Famous Faces" test (NUFFACE test for short). Her research work will be presented in the upcoming issue of the specialist journal "Neurology".

With the help of the specially adapted "Famous Faces" test, according to the US researchers, dementia should be easier to detect in people under the age of 65. Face tests of this type have already been used to diagnose dementia, but by adapting the selected celebrities, the NUFFACE test has now been specially adapted to those aged 40 to 65, explains Northwestern University in its current press release.

Face test helps identify early forms of dementia The face test also allows a distinction to be made between simply recognizing faces and naming famous people, which can help “determine the exact nature of a person's cognitive impairment,” explained the study's lead author and PhD student in neuropsychology at Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center at Northwestern University, Tamar Gefen. Under the direction of senior author Professor Emily Rogalski, Gefen has adapted the face test for the younger generation of dementia patients. "The famous faces for this study were specifically chosen for their relevance to people under 65 years of age, so the test can be useful in diagnosing dementia in younger people," said Rogalski. The test is particularly suitable for so-called primary progressive aphasia (PPA), which, as a very rare and early form of dementia, primarily causes problems in communication or spoken language.

Dementia test with Kennedy, Princess Diana and Elvis Presley As part of their study, the US researchers tested the validity of the face test against 30 patients with primary progressive aphasia and 27 people without dementia. The average age of the test subjects was 62 years. As part of the test, the study participants were asked to recognize 20 black and white pictures of well-known faces, including John F. Kennedy, Princess Diana, Martin Luther King Jr. and Elvis Presley. They received points for each face the test subjects could name. If the name did not come to mind, but they could rewrite the person with at least two relevant details, they also received points. At the same time, the activities in the brains of the test subjects were observed by means of magnetic resonance tomography (MRT).

Difficulty recognizing faces is a sign of dementia The US scientists found that people with primary progressive aphasia performed significantly worse in the "Famous Faces" test than the test subjects in the control group. They recognized only 76 percent of the famous people and could only name the name in 46 percent, while the healthy study participants recognized 97 percent of the famous people and could name 93 percent by name. The accompanying MRI scan showed "that people who had difficulty assigning names to faces were more likely to have brain tissue loss in the left temporal lobe of the brain" and "those who had difficulty recognizing faces had tissue loss in the left and right temporal lobe “Said Northwestern University.

Overall, the researchers believe the test offers a good basis for the early diagnosis of dementia or primary progressive aphasia. "In addition to the practical value of identifying people with early dementia, this test can also help us understand how brain remembering works and how knowledge of words and objects is retrieved," explained Tamar Gefen. (fp)

Read also about dementia:
Diabetics have a higher risk of dementia
Does a healthy lifestyle protect against dementia?
Ginkgo extract protects against dementia

Photo credit: Angela Parszyk / pixelio.de

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