Changes In Humor May Be Early Symptom Of Dementia, Study Finds

| Nov 13, 2015 09:54 AM EST

Researchers at the University College London recently found out that a sudden change in a person's sense of humor can be a early symptom of dementia. The recent finding could be another step forward in identifying dementia among patients through uncommon symptoms. 

The study, which was funded by the Alzheimer's Research U.K., Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council (MRC) and the NIHR Queen Square Dementia Biomedical Research Unit, aims to verify how sense of humor can alter a person's frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and Alzheimer's disease, since it is the typical cause of dementia, according to the University College London.

The research team, led by Dr. Camilla Clark of UCL's Dementia Research Centre, had 48 people with different forms of FTD or Alzheimer's, and another set of 21 healthy people, answer a series of questionnaires about their loved one's kind of sense of humor, Medical News Today reported

"As sense of humour defines us and is used to build relationships with those around us, changes in what we find funny has impacts far beyond picking a new favourite TV show. We've highlighted the need to shift the emphasis from dementia being solely about memory loss. These findings have implications for diagnosis - personality and behaviour changes should be prompts for further investigation, and clinicians themselves need to be more aware of these symptoms as a potential early sign of dementia," Dr. Clark said.

"As well as providing clues to underlying brain changes, subtle differences in what we find funny could help differentiate between the different diseases that cause dementia. Humour could be a particularly sensitive way of detecting dementia because it puts demands on so many different aspects of brain function, such as puzzle solving, emotion and social awareness."

The researchers also added that "humor is heavily influenced by social and cultural context," according to Medical Daily. These factors may be different in other contexts, so it is important to have a better understanding of the underlying factors first. 

The study was published in the Nov. 10 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease

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