Are you able to recognize Albert Einstein, Princess Diana or Oprah?
Well, not being able to put names to these famous faces could signal the early onset of dementia, scientists say. In research published in the journal “Neurology”, scientists developed a test for identifying a certain type of early dementia, mental decline that occurs between the ages of 40 and 65, that involved identifying celebrities like Elvis and Bill Gates.
The study involved 30 people who had primary progressive aphasia and a group of 27 people without dementia, with an average age of 62. Progressive aphasia is a type of dementia that affects communication and language function, such as the ability to express thoughts or find the correct word. All were asked to identify black-and-white photos of famous faces by name, or if they couldn’t name them, to provide at least two relevant details about them. Those who had dementia were only able to name the faces 46% of the time and provide some details 79% of the time, while those without it averaged 93% and 97% respectively.
Being able to recognize a face without naming it could help doctors identify the type of cognitive impairment a person has, said study author Tamar Gefen of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. When researchers examined the MRI scans, people who were unable to name the faces were more likely to have brain tissue loss in their left temporal lobe, while people who had recognition trouble showed loss on both sides. This test is an update to older facial recognition tests that used famous people from earlier generations, said study co-author Emily Rogalski. The new test was designed around celebrities likely to be known by 40, 50 and 60 year old Americans.