A picture is really worth a 1000 words when it comes to Alzheimer’s patients

May 1st, 2009 - 2:42 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, May 1 (ANI): They say a picture is worth a thousand words - and in case of patients suffering from mild Alzheimer’s disease, the saying seems to work.

A new study from Boston University School of Medicine has shown that pictures allow patients with very mild Alzheimer’s disease (AD) to better recognize and identify a subject as compared to using just words.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) has been conceptualized as a transitional stage between healthy aging and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

The amnestic subtype of MCI has received a great deal of attention as it has been associated with an estimated tenfold increase in Alzheimer’s disease compared to age-matched controls with no cognitive impairment.

During the study, the researchers conducted separate recognition memory tests of words and pictures. They also recorded high density event-related potentials (ERPs) during memory retrieval.

These ERPs allow researchers to understand the underlying brain activity associated with certain cognitive processes.

The study showed that frontally based ERP components typically associated with memorial familiarity and post-retrieval monitoring were similar between both groups for retrieval of pictures.

However, these components were diminished in the patient group during the retrieval of words.

“The results suggested that patients with very mild Alzheimer’s, or amnestic mild cognitive impairment, were able to rely on intact frontally-based cognitive processes, such as implicit conceptual priming and explicit memorial familiarity, to remember pictures,” said study author Dr Brandon Ally, an assistant professor of neurology at BUSM.

According to the researchers, this is a novel finding with regards to how people conceptualize memory retrieval, particularly in patients with dementia.

“Perhaps there is more of an interaction of implicit and explicit memory processes than we once thought, and patients with mild AD can successfully use implicit memory, or memory without conscious awareness, to support recognition,” they said.

“Overall, the current results have shown that pictures and words differentially affect how memorial decisions are made in patients with aMCI,” said Alley.

“Pictures have a clear memorial advantage over words, but the debate as to why is far from settled,” he added.

These findings appear in the current issue of the journal Neuropsychologia. (ANI)

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