A face recognition test could one day be added to mental agility tests when screening for the early signs of dementia.
A small study with 30 patients performed at Northwestern University in Chicago, and reported in the Neurology journal, found that a facial recognition test could help to identify early onset primary progressive aphasia (PPA). People with this rare form of dementia struggled to identify black and white prints of famous people, compared with dementia-free individuals. Brain scans of the individuals with PPA indicated loss of brain tissue in those areas responsible for recognising faces.
Trials are needed to see if similar tests might assist in the early diagnosis of PPA and other forms of the dementia.
Test of famous faces ‘helps to spot early dementia’. London: BBC Health News, August 13th 2013.
As usual, the NHS Choices “Behind the Headlines” critical appraisal of this research offers some perspective and due caution.
“The study has not examined whether this test could be used to accurately diagnose people in the initial diagnosis of PPA and certainly not the more common types of dementia”.
Could ‘famous faces test’ be used to spot dementia? London: NHS Choices; Behind the Headlines, August 13th 2013.
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Gefen, T. Wieneke, C. [and] Martersteck, A. [et al] (2013). Naming vs knowing faces in primary progressive aphasia: A tale of 2 hemispheres. Neurology, August 13th 2013, Vol.81(7), pp.658-64. (Click here to view the PubMed abstract).
[A brief reference to this item features in Dementia and Elderly Care: the Latest Evidence Newsletter (RWNHST), Volume 3 Issue 9, August 2013].