Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Improved Picture-Naming in People with Dementia

July 31, 2017 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 
picture naming activity

Picture-naming activity

In a study of 12 people with mild Alzheimer’s disease or frontotemporal dementia, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) improved the participants’ abilities to name an object in a picture more than did a sham stimulation. TDCS is a treatment in which an anode and a cathode electrode placed on the skull are used to deliver a steady low level of electrical current to the brain. There is currently no treatment available to specifically target symptoms of dementia such as forgetting words.

The research by Howard Chertkow and colleagues was presented at the 2017 meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. In the study, participants received either 30 minutes of anodal tDCS targeting the parietal lobe of the brain or a sham stimulation.

They also received training in picture-naming. The participants were evaluated before stimulation, at the final stimulation session, two weeks after stimulation, and two months after stimulation. Compared to those who received the sham stimulation, those who received real tDCS improved at picture-naming, and maintained that improvement for two months.

Those who received tDCS also performed better at naming new pictures not included in the training, and were better able to remember a string of digits than those who got the sham stimulation.

Changes in Sense of Humor May Be Warning Sign of Dementia

April 6, 2016 · Posted in Diagnosis, Risk Factors · Comment 

senior man laughingA change in a person’s sense of humor could be an early indicator of dementia, according to a 2015 article by Jason Warren and colleagues in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. The changes can appear as early as 10 years before a diagnosis of dementia. Almost all participants who would go on to be diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia showed an increased preference for slapstick humor over satirical or absurdist compared with those who would not. In contrast, changes in sense of humor appeared in less than half of those who would go on to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, indicating that changes in sense of humor may allow doctors to distinguish between different types of dementia.

The study has some limitations. It was small (48 patients) and relied on patients’ memory of what kind of humor they enjoyed 15 years earlier. More research is needed to clarify the link between changes in humor preferences and dementia.

Warren suggests that changes in humor appear before other warning signs of dementia, such as memory loss. He called humor a type of “stress test” for the brain, since getting a joke can require a quick shift in perspective.