Sarcasm finds medical use in dementia detection (Agence France Presse via Yahoo! News)
"One of the things about FTD patients is that they don't detect humour -- they are very bad at double meaning and a lot of humour (other than sarcasm) is based on double meaning," he said.
The research, conducted in 2006-07, put 26 sufferers of FTD and 19 Alzheimer's patients through a test in which actors acted out different scenarios using exactly the same words.
While in one scenario, the actors would deliver the lines sincerely, in others they would introduce a thick layer of sarcasm. Patients were then asked if they got the joke, Hodges said.
For example, said Hodges, if a couple were discussing a weekend away and the wife suggested bringing her mother, the husband might say: "Well, that's great, you know how much I like your mother, that will really make it a great weekend."
When the same words were delivered sarcastically and then in a neutral tone, the joke was lost on FTD patients, while the Alzheimer's patients got it.
"The patients with FTD are very literal and they take what is being said as genuine and sincere," said Hodges.
FTD, often referred to as Pick's disease, is similar to Alzheimer's in that it involves a progressive decline in mental powers over a number of years, but FTD affects different regions of the brain.
"It can be very difficult to diagnose in early stages and to separate from depression or, later on, schizophrenia or personality disorders," Hodges said.
The sarcasm test could replace some more expensive and less widely available tests for dementia, he said.
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