Laughing at Death and Disaster Could be an Early Dementia Warning Sign

By Gary Cutlack on at

Finding merriment in the misfortune of others has become a sort of national pastime of late, but there's a more serious angle to some cases of inappropriate laughter -- it could be an early warning sign of the onset of dementia.

The findings are based on questions asked of family members of those suffering from frontotemporal dementia -- the most common form of the illness to occur in the under-55s -- with researchers from University College London asking the families of 48 dementia patients for their opinions on the personalities of sufferers, including if, in hindsight, they'd noticed any early changes in things they laughed at.

People close to those with the illness reported that some FTD sufferers had developed a notably "darker" sense of humour in the years before diagnosis, laughing at tragic events in the news and even seeing the funny side of people they know injuring themselves.

Humour changes are specific to frontotemporal dementia, as this form of the illness hits the part of the brain that controls our personality and behaviour. The team's Dr Camilla Clark said: "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." [MRC via Telegraph]