Sicker Sense of Humor Could Signal Dementia

Some patients laughed at tragic events prior to diagnosis: study
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 10, 2015 2:16 PM CST
In this July 29, 2013 photo, a researcher holds a human brain in a laboratory at Northwestern University's cognitive neurology and Alzheimer's disease center in Chicago.   (AP Photo/Scott Eisen)

(Newser) – Scientists are exploring what could be an intriguing link between a dark sense of humor and a rare form of dementia. Researchers at University College London explain that frontotemporal dementia affects the part of the brain related to personality and behavior and can cause patients to become impulsive and reckless. To get a better idea of a patient's behavior before diagnosis, researchers questioned the friends and family of 48 patients about the individual's preference for different kinds of comedy as well as any examples of inappropriate humor, reports the BBC. Their findings show almost all loved ones saw a change in a patient's sense of humor within the nine years before their diagnosis. Many said the patient developed a sick sense of humor and would laugh at tragic events.

"These were marked changes—completely inappropriate humor well beyond the realms of even distasteful humor. For example, one man laughed when his wife badly scalded herself," a researcher explains. Another patient laughed when someone was having an asthma attack, per Nature World Report. Researchers also found the patients tended to prefer slapstick comedy to satirical comedy, compared to 21 healthy people of a similar age, though more research is needed to understand if and how this inclination could be linked to dementia. A rep for Alzheimer's Research UK says "this study highlights the importance of looking at the myriad different symptoms" when considering dementia, rather than the most common symptom: memory loss. (The disease may have turned this psychiatrist into a drug dealer.)

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