Science Daily (December 18, 2009): Alzheimer's Detection: What's His Name Again? How Celebrity Monikers Can Help Us Remember

Publication Date: 
Fri, 12/18/2009

Famous mugs do more than prompt us into buying magazines, according to new Universite de Montreal research. In the December issue of the Canadian Journal on Aging, a team of scientists explain how the ability to name famous faces or access biographical knowledge about celebrities holds clues that could help in early Alzheimer's detection.

"Semantic memory for people -- triggered through name, voice or face -- is knowledge we have gathered over the course of our lifetime on a person which enables us to recognize this person," says senior author Sven Joubert, a professor at the Universite de Montreal Department of Psychology and a researcher at the Center de recherche de l'lnstitut universitaire de geriatrie de Montreal.

The goal of semantic study was to determine whether the ability to recall names of famous people decreases with age, since the condition named anomia ranks among the most common complaints from the elderly. To invesigate, Dr. Joubert collaborated with first author Roxane Langlois to divide 117 healthy elderly, aged 60 to 91 years old, into three groups who were submitted to two semantic memory tests.

In a first test, subjects were shown the faces of 30 famous people such as Albert Einstein, Celine Dion, Catherine Deneuve, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Wayne Gretzky.