Famous Face Test May Spot Early Dementia
Researchers say inability to name icons like Einstein or Elvis might signal primary progressive aphasia
Whereas 93 percent of the healthy group was able to successfully put a name to a famous face, the same was true of just 46 percent of the primary progressive aphasia patients.
And although 97 percent of the healthy group was able to recognize or describe the icons on view, the same was true of just 79 percent of the dementia group.
What's more, brain scan analyses revealed that those who had difficulty with name recall were more likely to have experienced brain-tissue loss in the left temporal lobe region of their brains, while those with difficulties in face recognition had suffered brain loss on both sides of the same region.
"We hope," Gefen said, "that this tool can be incorporated into a battery of tests to be used for younger patients who specifically complain of difficulties naming a person's face."
Catherine Roe, an instructor in neurology at the Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis, took a cautious view of the findings.
"To help us know how to use this test as a screening tool," Roe said, "more research needs to be done to figure out whether this test distinguishes all people with dementia from people without dementia or whether it distinguishes only people with one particular type of early-onset dementia from people without dementia."
Cheryl Grady, a senior scientist with the Rotman Research Institute at the Baycrest Center in Toronto, seconded the need for follow-up work. But she nonetheless described the work as "intriguing" and praised "the updating of such a test for middle-aged adults."
"[But] I would say that a lot more studies need to use this test before we will know how sensitive it is or whether it is more sensitive to early disease than other fairly sensitive tests," Grady said.
In research, the more true positive results a test produces, the more "sensitive" the test is considered.