According to new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, a noticeable change in humor may be an early indicator for poor cognitive health
UK scientists from University College London (UCL) found that the darker the sense of humor becomes with age, the more likely it is for people to develop changes in behavior that lead to frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a common form of dementia for middle-aged people or even to Alzheimer’s disease now affecting around 5 million Americans.
The changes in what makes people laugh can be noticed years before the disease even starts.
Study leader Dr. Camilla Clark, of the Dementia Research Centre at UCL and her colleague researchers surveyed close friends and relatives of 48 people FTD or Alzheimer’s and 21 healthy people about the subject’s or their sense of humor style (slapstick, satirical or absurd), about changes in these habits or even times when laughing about inappropriate things. The team of researchers hope their study will help to better diagnose dementia in the future.
Study found that people with FTD were prone to have more inappropriate incidences of humor, when compared to healthy subjects or Alzheimer patients. Additionally, slapstick comedy was preferred by both people with FTD or Alzheimer’s.
The humor changes were noticed 9 years before the onset of the disease, making this a possible early sign of both diseases.
Study leader, Dr. Clark declared: “These findings have implications for diagnosis – not only should personality and behavior changes ring alarm bells, but clinicians themselves need to be more aware of these symptoms as an early sign of dementia.
“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.
“Humor 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.”
Moreover, Dr. Simon Ridley, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, underlined the importance and future need of these kind of studies in order to increase diagnosis accuracy: “Dementia diagnosis poses multiple challenges, but through research we will be able to improve diagnosis and ultimately find treatments that tackle the specific causes of the condition.”