Inability to spot sarcasm; dementia linked
Mon, 18 Apr 2011 06:53:56 GMT
People who have lost their ability to tell when someone is lying or can't detect lies and sarcasm in a conversation may be showing the first signs of dementia.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have found that the evaluation of a person's ability to spot sarcasm may be used as a test for detecting early stages of neurodegenerative diseases such as a rare form of dementia called frontotemporal dementia.
Neurodegenerative diseases are a sort of progressive disease which cause certain parts of the brain to deteriorate.
During the study, researchers asked 175 people, about half of them suffering different sorts of Neurodegenerative diseases such as frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer's disease to watch videos of two people talking.
The scientists then evaluated the individuals' ability to detect false or insincere statements in the conversation and compared their scores with the results of brain scans that measured loss of volume related to dementia.
Healthy people easily detected the lies and sarcasm, but those with frontotemporal dementia found it hard to distinguish among lies, sarcasm and fact, according to the report presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, Honolulu.
Moreover, the performance of the people with other types of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease was not as well as the normal people but better in comparison to those with frontotemporal dementia.
Frontotemporal dementia is a rare type of dementia that affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. The frontal lobes are strongly associated with complex, higher-order human thinking, thus being unable to detect a lie is only one of several ways the disease may manifest itself, said lead researcher Dr. Katherine Rankin.
“We have to find these people early,” said Rankin. Overall, “This fact can help them be diagnosed earlier.”
Early diagnosis of this sort of dementia will provide the best opportunity for intervention when drugs become available, she added.
“If somebody has strange behavior and they stop understanding things like sarcasm and lies, they should see a specialist who can make sure this is not the start of one of these diseases,” Rankin suggested.