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Alzheimer's patients 'feel emotional after memories have gone'

Alzheimer's patients 'feel emotional after memories have gone'
26th September 2014

Even though they may have forgotten the specific memory, individuals with Alzheimer's disease are still capable of feeling the emotional connection. 

This is the result of a study from the University of Iowa, which shows that those with the degenerative condition have a healthy emotional life.

Lead author Edmarie Guzmán-Vélez and her research team asked 17 individuals with the condition and 17 without to view clips from films that were both happy and sad. As would be expected, the snippets triggered an emotional response - laughter and tears. They were asked questions before and after the screenings.

Afterwards, the Alzheimer's patients could not remember as much information as the healthy participants. It transpired four couldn't give any facts about what they had just viewed, while one couldn't even remember watching something. 

Despite this lack of recall, individuals with this form of cognitive decline had higher than normal levels of either sadness or happiness for up to 30 minutes afterwards. 

Interestingly enough, the less the participants remembered, the longer their sadness lasted. 

Ms Guzman-Velez, who is a doctoral student in clinical psychology, said: "This confirms that the emotional life of an Alzheimer's patient is alive and well.

"Our findings should empower caregivers by showing them that their actions toward patients really do matter. Frequent visits and social interactions, exercise, music, dance, jokes, and serving patients their favorite foods are all simple things that can have a lasting emotional impact on a patient's quality of life and subjective wellbeing."

Ms Guzman-Velez undertook the study along with professor of neurology and psychology Daniel Tranel and assistant professor at the University of Tulsa and the Laureate Institute for Brain Research Justin Feinstein. 

In 2010, Mr Tranel and Mr Feinstein published a paper predicting how important it is to take into consideration the emotional needs of those with the neurodegenerative condition. Mr Tranel commented how it was of the utmost importance to see this data that adds weight to the 2010 research, saying these new findings have "immediate implications" on how patients are treated. 

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