Note: An audio clip from Saturday Night Live describes a fake product called the "Mom Translator."
That’s a clip from Saturday Night Live. And maybe we can all relate. I know I can. Although I blame my namenesia on the fact that I don’t watch television.
But recalling famous people’s names might give us clues to early detection of Alzheimer’s. According to a recent study in the Canadian Journal on Aging.
The inability to remember names is called anomia and it’s a top complaint of older folks. (And me.) The researchers wanted to find out first if there’s a difference in remembering names and other biographical information (also known as semantic memory.)
So they tested the memories of 117 healthy 60 to 91 year-olds. And they found that the ability to put a name to a photo of a famous person declines with age. But semantic memory, which includes biographical info, like knowing that George Bush was a U.S. President, remains unaffected by age.
And here’s a neat finding: older people have an easier time recalling semantic details when provided a name, as opposed to a photo of the person. Presumably because names are consistent but faces change.
In a second study the same researchers found that patients with cognitive impairment and early Alzheimer’s are significantly less able to remember famous names. But unlike healthy elders, their semantic memories are also significantly compromised.
The researchers say that a semantic memory test could become a clinical tool to detect those at risk of early Alzheimer’s. Intervention could help keep them in the name game.