AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 4, 2017


Why Do People with Alzheimer's Stop Remembering Their Loved Ones?

New findings from face perception research 

Not only are patients who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease unable to recall memories, but their ability to recognize faces also quickly dissipates. In a recent study, researchers found that in addition to the memory problems, Alzheimer’s disease also impairs visual face perception. Face perception plays a key role in human communication based on an individual’s ability to perceive a face as a whole, known as “holistic perception.” Holistic perception allows for patients to perceive the individual facial features, such as the eyes, nose or mouth. In this study, it was demonstrated that Alzheimer’s disease impairs the ability to perceive faces. “The results for people with Alzheimer’s were similar to those in the control group of answer accuracy and the time to process the upside-down faces and cars. To perform these tasks, the brain must perform a local analysis of the various image components perceived by the eye. However, with the upright faces, people with Alzheimer’s were much slower and made more mistakes than the healthy individuals. This leads us to believe that holistic face recognition in particular becomes impaired. Subjects with Alzheimer’s disease also demonstrated normal recognition of the upright cars, a task that in theory does not require holistic processing. This suggests that Alzheimer’s leads to visual perception problems specifically with faces.” To read more on this study, click here


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