Early on-set dementia linked to ‘cocktail party effect’

University College London researchers have discovered that brain changes associated with perception and understanding of sounds may flag early signs of dementia.

Also known as the ‘cocktail party effect’, this symptom is often in people with dementia, and many people who experience this effect find it hard to focus on a single conversation or speaker in a noisy environment.

Experts discovered that people with Alzheimer’s disease find it more difficult to ignore what other people are saying when nearby when trying to focus on the conversation at hand.

According to a Lancet Commission report, individuals with an unaddressed midlife hearing loss are around five times more likely to be affected with dementia. Compared to those without hearing loss.

As there are currently no available treatments to slow down or prevent this disease, comprehending the complex relationship between dementia and hearing loss is becoming more vital than ever. (The ears pick-up sound waves and send out nerve impulses while our brain interprets these signals.)

Jason Warren, a Professor from the University College London, led a team, which assessed the process of where sound-information is extracted from noisy environments in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and compared it with older people without.

The team designed an experiment to test the patients’ ability to judge a sound’s location in a bustling environment. They assessed brain functions and structures using MRI brain scans to comprehend the impact these sounds had on patients’ brains.

Additionally, the team tested prescribed medication for memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease to understand this connection.

Warren stated that “While most people think of memory problems when we hear the word ‘dementia’, that is far from the whole story. Vision and hearing problems are also common, even when there is nothing wrong with a person’s eyes or ears.

“Hearing happens in the brain, and there is a complex relationship between hearing changes and the onset of dementia. Our research simulating real-world hearing problems shows they are due to changes in brain structure linked with the development of diseases like Alzheimer’s and other diseases that cause dementia.”

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