A dark sense of humour may have a more serious edge — researchers have found a scary correlation between this type of humour and impending dementia.
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A study conducted by University College London, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, found that increasingly twisted or dark humour could be one of the early signs of dementia.
Researchers led by Dr. Camilla Clark questioned the friends and family of 48 patients with frontotemporal dementia and asked them to rate their relative’s enjoyment of various types of comedy, ranging from slapstick comedy like Mr. Bean to satirical comedy such as Yes, Minister or absurdist comedy such as Monty Python, The Telegraph reports.
Frontotemporal dementia is one of the rarer types of dementia and, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, its effects include deterioration in behaviour and personality as well as language disturbances.
What many of these relatives realised is that their loved one’s humour had changed years before they were eventually diagnosed. According to the BBC, the study found that people suffering from dementia favoured slapstick comedy — like the popular British sitcom Mr. Bean starring Rowan Atkinson — when compared with 21 healthy people of a similar age. According to The Telegraph, the findings also concluded that dementia patients laughed at grossly inappropriate moments or when others did not find a situation funny: like a barking dog or a badly parked car.
“As sense of humour defines us and is used to build relationships with those around us, changes in what we find funny has impacts far beyond picking a new favourite TV show,” Dr. Clark said.
“We’ve highlighted the need to shift the emphasis from dementia being solely about memory loss,” she continued.
“These findings have implications for diagnosis — not only should personality and behaviour changes ring alarm bells, but clinicians themselves need to be more aware of these symptoms as an early sign of dementia.”
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If a change in humour is, in fact, a warning sign for dementia then hopefully these findings will help further research that could result in early treatment and diagnosis.