Knowledge about celebrities could indicate risk for Alzheimer's, research suggests

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Our ability to remember information about celebrities could help with more than just trivia games; it could hold clues to early detection of Alzheimer's disease, new research suggests.

Semantic memory is the information people gather over the course of their lives that helps them remember and recognize other people, according to researchers at the UniversitÄ de MontrÄal. For the study, a group of 117 healthy seniors aged 60 to 91 were shown pictures of 30 celebrities and asked to recall details, such as name, profession, nationality and biographical information. Researchers found that the ability to remember a subject╒s name decreases over time in healthy aging, but the ability to recall details╤a person╒s semantic memory╤is less affected.

In a second study, those same researchers performed a similar test on seniors with mild cognitive impairment or early stages of Alzheimer╒s disease. They discovered that seniors in this cohort had an easier time recalling a celebrity╒s name, but their ability to recall details was significantly more impaired. This type of semantic memory test could become a valuable tool in assessing those at risk for dementia and Alzheimer╒s disease, the research team says. The report appears in the December issue of the Canadian Journal on Aging