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A Warped Sense of Humour Could Predict Dementia

12/11/2015

A Warped Sense of Humour Could Predict DementiaA sudden change in a person’s sense of humour, especially when they become increasingly perceptive to dark or twisted humour, could be an early warning sign of dementia, according to a new study.

The results of the study, which was conducted by researchers at University College London, were published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and show that a person’s sense of humour can be a good indicator of their mental health.

Friend and family of the study subjects were asked to rate their friend or relative’s reaction to different kinds of comedy. Slapstick comedy, such as Mr. Bean, satirical comedy, such as Yes Minister and absurdist comedy, such as Monty Python, were all used for the study, as well as “inappropriate humour”.

Dr Camilla Clark, who headed up the team responsible for the research, recruited 48 patients who had previously been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. The team found that dementia patients had a preference for slapstick humour, when compared against 21 healthy people of similar age.

Almost all of the patients’ friends and family said they had noticed a change in the patient’s humour over the nine years prior to them being diagnosed. Most notable were preferences for dark humour and inappropriate laughing at tragic events.

“These were marked changes – completely inappropriate humour well beyond the realms of even distasteful humour. For example, one man laughed when his wife badly scalded herself,” said Dr Clark.

Dr Simon Ridley, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said changes in behaviour should be investigated by an individual’s GP.

“While memory loss is often the first thing that springs to mind when we hear the word dementia, this study highlights the importance of looking at the myriad different symptoms that impact on daily life and relationships", he said.

 

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