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Alzheimer’s Patients Have Diminished Emotional Response

Last Updated: July 15, 2010.

People with Alzheimer's disease appear to experience emotions less intensely than those without the disease, according to a study of a small group of Alzheimer's disease patients published in the Spring issue of the Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences.

THURSDAY, July 15 (HealthDay News) -- People with Alzheimer's disease appear to experience emotions less intensely than those without the disease, according to a study of a small group of Alzheimer's disease patients published in the Spring issue of the Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences.

Valeria Drago, M.D., of the University of Florida in Gainesville, and colleagues studied seven patients from the Memory Disorder Clinic at the University of Florida who had Alzheimer's disease but no major psychiatric diagnoses, and eight healthy subjects who were recruited from the local community or were spouses of the patients. The subjects were shown pleasant pictures (babies, couples, sports) and unpleasant pictures (vicious animals, violence) and asked to rate the pleasantness or unpleasantness (emotional valence) of each picture by marking a calibrated scale that had a happy face on one end and a sad face at the other.

The researchers found that the Alzheimer's patients viewing the pictures tended to mark the happy face-sad face scale farther from the end points than did the comparison subjects, indicating they were affected less intensely by the pictures' emotional valence. The Alzheimer's disease patients also made more valence-inconsistent responses; for example, responding to an unpleasant picture with a mark closer to the happy face end than the sad face end.

"Patients with Alzheimer's disease judged these pictures' emotional valence as less intense than did the comparison subjects and also made more valence-inconsistent responses. These results might have been induced by impaired picture comprehension or a reduction of emotional experiences induced by degeneration of the limbic-cortical-reticular networks," the authors write.

The study was supported in part by the Lundbeck Pharmaceutical Company.

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