Laughter is the best medicine

Sarah remembered how she was first attracted to Mark, her husband – that first evening, when she, along with everyone else, was in splits at Marks’ anecdotes and stories.  Over the days, weeks and months that followed, Sarah would forever be laughing at his jokes or smiling happily, as she recalled his anecdotes.  Even in the thirty years of their marriage, every time she would get tense about something, or irritable, or just feel low; Mark would manage to change her mood with his humor. 

However, these days there seemed to be anecdotes and stories that Mark found hilarious, but she did not.  What had changed?  She realized that over the last few years, Mark’s sense of humor was slowly getting darker.  She failed to understand what was so funny about someone slipping and falling on ice repeatedly; but Mark would be sitting there, laughing till tears came to his eyes.  Sarah was surprised because Mark had never found slapstick as funny.  But here he was, watching slapstick comedy on the television, rather than the satires that he so enjoyed.  Sarah was not the only one to notice this change – at the last dinner party, Marks childhood friend, Greg had also commented on this change.  Sarah was concerned about this change in Mark because of an article she had read a few days back.

Was it true?  Could changes in humor be related to dementia at a later stage in life?

Does a change in humor indicate dementia?

According to the findings published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers concluded that changes in the sense of humor may be a sign of the early stages of Alzheimer’s.  The researchers also found that those whose sense of humor changed, becoming darker with age, were likely to suffer from behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD).  The researchers from University College London (UCL), asked relatives and friends of 48 people suffering from various forms of Alzheimer’s or FTD, to complete a set of questionnaires related to the persons sense of humor.  The questions ranged from rating the persons liking of different types of humor to changes that were noticed in their sense of humor over the last 15 years.  The same questionnaire was also given to friends and relatives of 21 healthy individuals.

The researchers found that people with bv FTD had more inappropriate incidences of humor, like laughing at news of a tragic event or even a dog barking endlessly – things that a normal person would not find funny.  People suffering from Alzheimer’s or bvFTD also found slapstick humor funnier than satirical or absurdist humor.

Changes over the years

According to the findings, changes in the sense of humor in the people suffering from Alzheimer’s or bvFTD, was noticed by their friends and relatives, a minimum of 9 years before the symptoms of dementia first presented themselves.

Is Mark a potential dementia candidate?

The findings on the alterations in the sense of humor, could lead to better and earlier diagnosis for the various forms of dementia.  However, not everyone who has a change in their sense of humor is going to suffer from dementia.  These findings have implications for diagnosis – as a change could be an early indicator.  Further and larger base studies are required to understand and pinpoint, when and what in the person’s change of humor, may indicate future dementia.

When Sarah spoke to Mark about her worries, he stared at her for a moment, before bursting into laughter.  It seems, as he explained to her, that he suddenly started enjoying slapstick comedy because that was what his doting grand-daughter enjoyed.  And to prove his point, he started telling Sarah an anecdote, which had her laughing her head off with tears of relief and joy in her eyes.


References:
  1. Arigo, M. C. (2015, November 13). Changes In Humor May Be Early Symptom Of Dementia, Study Finds. Retrieved November 16, 2015, from hngn.com: http://www.hngn.com/articles/150018/20151113/changes-humor-early-symptom-dementia-study-finds.htm
  2. Rivas, A. (2015, November 11). A Changed Sense Of Humor May Be An Early Sign Of Dementia, As Patients Lose Touch With Social Context. Retrieved November 16, 2015, from medicaldaily.com: http://www.medicaldaily.com/changed-sense-humor-may-be-early-sign-dementia-patients-lose-touch-social-context-361222
  3. Whiteman, H. (2015, November 11). Changes in humor may be early indicator for dementia. Retrieved November 16, 2015, from medicalnewstoday.com: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/302403.php
  4. Image Courtesy: alz.org; http://333oee3bik6e1t8q4y139009mcg.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/dem-norm-mci-alz.jpg