Helping dementia patients recall words

Sydney: Dementia patients who fumble for words, trying to recall their usage, could now regain their word memory thanks to a new training programme.

This ability to re-learn vocabulary indicates that even in dementia, some recovery of function is possible, says a new study led by Sharon Savage at NeuRA (Neuroscience Research Australia).

"People with this type of dementia lose semantic memory, the memory system we use to store and remember words and their meanings," Savage was quoted in the journal Cortex.

"For example, a person with this type of dementia usually knows what a kettle does, but they may not know what to call it and may not recognize the word `kettle` when they hear it," said Savage, according to a NeuRA statement.

Researchers utilised a simple computer training-programme that paired images of household objects such as food, appliances, utensils, tools and clothing, with their names

Savage found that after just three weeks of training for 30-60 minutes each day, patients` ability to recall the name of the items improved, even for patients with more advanced forms of the dementia.

"Semantic dementia is a younger-onset dementia and because sufferers lose everyday words life can be very frustrating for them and their families.

"By re-learning some of these everyday words, day-to-day conversations around the house may become less frustrating, improving patient well-being," Savage concluded.


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