NU study: Famous faces may help diagnose early dementia

NU study: Famous faces may help diagnose early dementia

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Photos of famous faces like Oprah Winfrey and John F. Kennedy may soon help doctors diagnose early-onset dementia, in members of the baby boom generation.

Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a test to measure the brain's ability to recognize and name those famous figures.

The faces were specifically chosen to be recognizable to people under the age of 65. This test should help doctors identify which type of impairment a person might have--whether it's memory, speech or other cognitive issues.

"Coming up with a specific name is more challenging than recognizing someone or giving a fact." So saying that, ‘oh she's that lady who's on TV and she has a talk show and she's been around forever,' is much easier for individuals than it is to come up with a specific label like ‘Oprah.,'" Dr. Emily Rogalski says.

"So that score gets transformed into a naming score and a recognition score and then that information tells us about how well they're doing with their language abilities, their naming abilities, and also their identification of objects," she explains.

Researchers also compare peoples' test scores with MRI scans of their brains to see where there might be cell damage.

They hope to use the test results to figure out what therapies might be most helpful.

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