05:14pm Tuesday 22 October 2019

Everyday words that describe feelings lost in dementia

Dr Sharpley Hsieh and colleagues from Neuroscience Research Australia explored how people with different types of dementia comprehend words describing feelings, such as ‘doubt’ and ‘hopeful’.

“People use emotion words in everyday conversation and don’t realise it. How often do we use sentences such as ‘I’m frustrated’ or ‘she’s impressed’? These are key words and you have to know them to understand a sentence,” Dr Hsieh says.

Dr Hsieh found that people with Alzheimer’s disease are still able to understand these kinds of words, but people with other types of dementia are not.

People suffering from semantic dementia – a type of frontotemporal dementia and the second most common dementia in people under 65 – experience a severe loss of word and conceptual knowledge. This latest study confirms that for this group of people, their understanding of emotion words is also severely affected.


“You can easily show a picture of a car to test this word, or a smiling face to show happiness. But feelings such as frustration or embarrassment are difficult to depict and so until now we haven’t been able to look at whether these concepts are lost in people with different dementias,” Dr Hsieh says.

These findings have implications for sufferers of dementia, carers and families.

“Losing the concept of a toaster, for example, will impact upon a person’s quality of life, but the prevalence of words used to communicate feelings and emotion in our language must make the lack of understanding of these words so devastating for patients and their carers,” Dr Hsieh says.

This study is published in the journal Neuropsychology. If you would like more information please contact Ben Bravery at the NeuRA Media office on +61 406 599 569 or b.bravery@neura.edu.au

How was this study done?

1.      People with semantic dementia, behavioural-variant frontotemporal dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease were compared to healthy people without any dementia.

2.      Two tests were given. The first asked patients to couple feelings such as ‘anger’ with ‘fury’ or ‘remorse’; the second asked patients to associate words such as ‘terror’ in the right context such as ‘hiding’ or ‘playing’.

3.      Patients with Alzheimer’s disease demonstrated the most successful level of comprehension across tests; people with behavioural-variant frontotemporal dementia showed a mixed response depending on the test.

4.      Patients with semantic dementia were the most impaired on both tests.

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Mathew Basel and colleagues, Kansas State University (Manhattan, KS) and Iowa State University (Ames), highlight the advantages that pig disease models offer, as they are anatomically and physiologically more closely related to humans than traditional rodent animal models. As a result, findings from studies in large animal models such as pigs are more likely to translate into similar outcomes in humans. The authors present their findings in the article “Human Xenografts Are Not Rejected in a Naturally Occurring Immunodeficient Porcine Line: A Human Tumor Model in Pigs.”

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About the Journal
BioResearch Open Access is a bimonthly peer-reviewed open access journal that provides a new rapid-publication forum for a broad range of scientific topics including molecular and cellular biology, tissue engineering and biomaterials, bioengineering, regenerative medicine, stem cells, gene therapy, systems biology, genetics, biochemistry, virology, microbiology, and neuroscience. All articles are published within 4 weeks of acceptance and are fully open access and posted on PubMedCentral. All journal content is available online at the BioResearch Open Access website.
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Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. is a privately held, fully integrated media company known for establishing authoritative peer-reviewed journals in many promising areas of science and biomedical research, including Tissue Engineering, Stem Cells and Development, Human Gene Therapy and HGT Methods, and AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses. Its biotechnology trade magazine, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN), was the first in its field and is today the industry’s most widely read publication worldwide. A complete list of the firm’s 70 journals, books, and newsmagazines is available on the Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. website.

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