Severe gullibility or the difficulty discerning between lies, sarcasm and the truth are symptoms experienced by those with various forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease–according to a new study published by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco.
The researchers had a group of 175 elderly individuals–including healthy volunteers as well as those with some form of dementia, watch videos of people engaged in conversations. Those with some form of dementia had particular difficulty detecting forms of speech such as sarcasm or obvious lying. This difficulty correlated with structural changes in their brains on magnetic resonance imaging scans.
“These patients cannot detect lies,” said UCSF neuropsychologist Katherine Rankin, a member of the UCSF Memory and Aging Center and the senior author of the study. “This fact can help them be diagnosed earlier.”
According to the the researchers, gullibility may be an early symptom of dementia.
“If somebody has strange behavior and they stop understanding things like sarcasm and lies, they should see a specialist who can make sure this is not the start of one of these diseases,” said Rankin.
Aging is a natural process; where there is gradual degradation of various systems of the body, due to wear and tear. This leads to a state where optimal functioning of body organs and systems is lost. Alzheimer’s disease is a condition where the brain loses its capability to function in an optimal manner. It is the most common cause of Dementia in the elderly people.
The basic problem that leads to loss of optimal brain function in Alzheimer’s disease is the formation of plaques on the brain. These plaques are actually amyloid cells of the brain which have been shredded in to smaller pieces by the action of enzyme beta-secretase. Repeated shredding leads to accumulation of the dead cells and finally leads to piling of these dead cells on the brain.
Other changes noted in the brain are neuro-fibrillary tangles and neuritic plaques. Neuro-fibrillary tangles are twisted sections of the protein that is found within the neurons. These tangles can clog the cells thereby impeding their function.
Neuritic plaques are accumulations of debris that is formed by a mixture of dead cells of nerves and brain and protein.