It May Not Be Their Memory That Prevents Alzheimer's Patients From Remembering Who You Are

Probably one of the very hardest parts of a loved one being affected by Alzheimer's is his ability to no longer recognize you.  

That's because the disease not only impairs memory but it also interferes with visual perception, according to newswise.com. 

Face perception plays a fundamental role in human communication, which is why humans have evolved into experts at quickly detecting and identifying faces, the website reports in a story about a new study. This faculty is thought to depend on the ability to perceive a face as a whole. Also known as “holistic perception,” this ability is in contrast to the local and detailed analysis required to perceive individual facial features, such as the eyes, nose or mouth. The study has demonstrated that the holistic ability to perceive faces is impaired by Alzheimer’s disease.

 For the study, the research team recruited people with Alzheimer’s along with healthy seniors to study their ability to perceive faces and cars in photos that were either upright or upside down. “The results for people with Alzheimer's were similar to those in the control group in terms of answer accuracy and the time to process the upside-down faces and cars," the researchers said.

"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 This suggests that Alzheimer's leads to visual perception problems specifically with faces."

The really sad part is that this can happen even in the early stages of the disease.

But the fact that impaired facial recognition might stem from a holistic perception problem—and not just a general memory problem—opens the door to different strategies (such as the recognition of particular facial traits or voice recognition) to help patients recognize their loved ones for longer, researchers said.

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