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If Your Mood Shifts Like This, It May Be Dementia, Says Study

Loss of pleasure can be a sign of dementia, study finds.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

Early-onset dementia, also referred to as frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is an umbrella term for a group of not-so-common brain disorders that primarily affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, according to the Mayo Clinic. The areas of the brain impacted by the condition that generally affects people between the ages of 40 to 65, are associated with personality, behavior and language. Now, a recent study has determined that the loss of one sensation could also signal the brain matter deteriorating condition. Read on to find out what it is—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.

Loss of Pleasure May Indicate Dementia, Says New Study

According to a recent study published in the medical journal Brain, loss of pleasure,  clinically called anhedonia, is a characteristic of FTD. Professor Muireann Irish from the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Centre and School of Psychology in the Faculty of Science and lead author of the study, explained in a press release that this is the first research that has explored how people with the condition experience pleasure. 

Professor Irish explained to ABC Australia that she and her team wanted to determine whether people living with different types of dementia experience pleasure the same way they did when they were healthy. Using a study group consisting of  172 participants—87 people FTD and 34 with Alzheimer's disease—they used two strategies. The first was asking their caregivers and loved ones how much pleasure they experienced prior to the disease and asked them to compare it to happiness levels after. 

"We found that patients with frontotemporal dementia showed a marked drop from their pre-dementia [happiness] ratings to the current moment," Professor Irish told the outlet. "We didn't find the same striking loss of pleasure with patients with Alzheimer's disease, which is quite interesting in itself." Then, they also used imaging technology to confirm that this loss of joy was related to the brain's pleasure system deterioration. 

"We know [people with FTD] become extremely withdrawn and quite apathetic and lose interest in social engagements, in hobbies they used to pursue," Professor Irish said. "They end up becoming very withdrawn and isolated. All these signs point to perhaps there is a blunting, or a dampening of pleasure in these patients, and that's exactly what we found in this study."

RELATED: 5 Ways to Prevent Dementia, Says Dr. Sanjay Gupta

The Findings May Lead to New Therapies

Dr. Irish hopes her findings will encourage new treatment therapies. "It helps to understand that changes in behavior are not the result of being difficult or being oppositional. It's being driven by the brain," she said. "It's not simply that your loved one is acting deliberately defiant, or they don't want to join you for dinner. It's more that the circuits in the brain that allow them to anticipate and respond positively to those experiences are not working properly." And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.