There are visible indicators and clues, and researchers found that a dark sense of humor might be an early signal of dementia long before the patient is actually diagnosed.
- Researchers studied a number of 48 dementia patients
- Loved ones observed changes in their sense of humor 9-15 years before their diagnosis
- Dementia patients showed a taste for more obvious humor, while their interest in cultured or satirical humor faded
- Mostly, dementia patients laughed at highly inappropriate times
Researchers at the University College London (UCL) have conducted a study on 48 frontotemporal dementia patients, and inquired their relatives about personality changes. Apparently, the signs were there. In fact, patients had shown signs of a shift in their humor 9 to 15 years before they were diagnosed.
There is a change in behavior, and one that is apparently very pronounced in their sense of humor. Things that are not funny or mildly amusing become outright hilarious. Those that used to prompt a laugh of a more sophisticated kind of humor faded. It’s an interesting study that could further aid in the early diagnosis which may lead patients on the path of prevention. Starting treatment early could help.
According to the team of researchers, an alteration in the sense of humor is more common in two types of dementia. Both frontotemporal and semantic dementia patients undergo a change in humor, often leading them into Alzheimer’s. It’s one of the condition’s most frequently met form that leads them to memory loss, disorientation, emotional imbalance before ultimately leading to immobility and death.
However, the signs might start sooner than expected. The researchers at UCL found that dementia patients tend to find slapstick comedies (‘Mr. Bean’) funnier than satirical or absurdist comedies (‘Yes, Prime Minister’, ‘Monty Python’). While this is no means a matter of preference, it indicates a change in their taste.
According to loved ones, many of the patients lost the more mature and cultured sense of humor. Instead, they tend to laugh loudly at dirty jokes and at inappropriate moments. One relative stated that their loved one used to be “very witty, but that has all gone”, slowly fading with time.
The participants reportedly laughed at moments that were not funny at all, such as reports of natural disasters, a bad parking job, or even family injuries. Dr. Camilla Clark has stated that this breaks even through the boundaries of distasteful humor. For example, one patient laughed when his wife badly scalded herself.
Even more, they have little sense of humor at all. They are find nothing funny, or change to humor that is “very rude and graphic” where absolutely everything is hilarious. Dementia patients also have the habit of laughing loudly when others laugh, and the joke or humor is very obvious.
It’s an important finding that may lead to earlier diagnoses. According to Dr. Simon Ridley, while most think of memory loss as the first sign, perhaps a change in the sense of humor could be detected much earlier. This way, the patients will receive proper treatment sooner.
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