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What's his name again? How celebrity monikers can help us remember
Date:12/18/2009

Montreal, December 18, 2009 Famous mugs do more than prompt us into buying magazines, according to new Universit de Montral research. In the December issue of the Canadian Journal on Aging, a team of scientists explain how the ability to name famous faces or access biographical knowledge about celebrities holds clues that could help in early Alzheimer's detection.

"Semantic memory for people triggered through name, voice or face is knowledge we have gathered over the course of our lifetime on a person which enables us to recognize this person," says senior author Sven Joubert, a professor at the Universit de Montral Department of Psychology and a researcher at the Centre de recherche de l'Institut universitaire de griatrie de Montral.

The goal of semantic study was to determine whether the ability to recall names of famous people decreases with age, since the condition named anomia ranks among the most common complaints from the elderly. To investigate, Dr. Joubert collaborated with first author Roxane Langlois to divide 117 healthy elderly, aged 60 to 91 years old, into three groups who were submitted to two semantic memory tests.

In a first test, subjects were shown the faces of 30 famous people such as Albert Einstein, Cline Dion, Catherine Deneuve, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Wayne Gretzky. They were first asked to name these famous faces, and then questioned on their professions, nationality and specific life events. In a second test a few weeks later, subjects were shown the names of the same 30 celebrities and were questioned again on biographical knowledge.

The result? Our ability to recall the name of someone we know upon seeing their face declines steadily in normal aging. Semantic memory for people however seems unaffected by age. For instance, even if a subject couldn't name George W. Bush they still knew he was a politician or president of the United States. Another finding is that healthy elderly are be
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Contact: Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins
sylvain-jacques.desjardins@umontreal.ca
514-343-7593
University of Montreal
Source:Eurekalert

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