Can change in sense of humour be a sign of something more sinister?

By Kate Hassett

Can change in sense of humour be a sign of something more sinister?
An increase in a twisted or warped sense of humour could show the earliest signs of alzheimer's, according to new study.

In a recent study, researchers at the University College London, found significant links between sense of humour and onset of frontotemporal dementia.

Published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the study was conducted by gathering data from friends and families of patients who were suffering from the neurodegenerative disease.

Data showing that each family had recognised a disruption, or change in their loved one’s sense of humour, showed that symptoms of the disease could be seen years before the dementia had been diagnosed.

When asked to rate their relative’s comedic preference, either by siding with slapstick, satirical, or absurdist comedy, nearly all respondents had noticed a shift in preference.

According to participants’ responses, many of the patients had developed a dark sense of humour, especially at inappropriate times, like during tragic or devastating events.

Patients tended to favour slapstick over satirical humour when compared to healthy people of a similar age.

Dr Camilla Clark, one of the authors of the study said: “These were marked changes – completely inappropriate humour well beyond the realms of even distasteful humour. For example, one man laughed when his wife badly scalded herself.

Dr Simon Ridley, of Alzheimer’s Research UK told the BBC that anyone who was noticing irregularities in their loved one’s behaviour should seek assistance from their local GP.

“While memory loss is often the first thing that springs to mind when we hear the word dementia, this study highlights the importance of looking at the myriad different symptoms that impact on daily life and relationships,” he said.

“A deeper understanding of the full range of dementia symptoms will increase our ability to make a timely and accurate diagnosis.”



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