Patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease may still feel happy or sad well after an event that prompted those feelings has ended and even without recalling the event itself, a small study has found.
Edmarie Guzmán-Vélez, PhD, of the University of Iowa College of Medicine, and colleagues enrolled 34 people. Half had probable Alzheimer’s disease while the other half were healthy. Both groups underwent emotion induction procedures, which included watching film clips to promote feelings of sadness or happiness.
Although patients with Alzheimer’s experienced impaired declarative memory while watching both kinds of films, after watching footage of a sad scene, those patients still reported elevated levels of sadness, even in those who couldn’t even remember the scene itself, the researchers reported in the journal Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology.
The results could have practical implications for caregivers given that their actions can impact Alzheimer’s patients’ quality of life and well-being.
“These findings indicate that patients with AD can experience prolonged states of emotion that persist well beyond the patients’ memory for the events that originally caused the emotion,” the researchers concluded. “The preserved emotional life evident in patients with AD has important implications for their management and care, and highlights the need for caretakers to foster positive emotional experiences.”
Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks, according to the National Institute on Aging. In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first…
Patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) typically have impaired declarative memory as a result of hippocampal damage early in the disease. Far less is understood about AD’s effect on emotion.
We investigated whether feelings of emotion can persist in patients with AD, even after their declarative memory for what caused the feelings has faded.
A sample of 17 patients with probable AD and 17 healthy comparison participants (case-matched for age, sex, and education) underwent two separate emotion induction procedures in which they watched film clips intended to induce feelings of sadness or happiness.