"When you hear Alzheimer's, you probably think of memory loss, language problems, and general confusion. These cognitive symptoms of the degenerative brain disease are devastating, and so it makes sense that they get the most attention in the media and scientific community.
Of course, the disease has emotional consequences, too. Some of these aren’t the least bit surprising: Depression, irritability, and agitation are expected as memory wanes and daily life becomes more difficult.
But Alzheimer’s brings other kinds of emotional changes that aren’t as easily explained, as I learned from a study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers found for the first time that individuals with Alzheimer’s show a high level of ‘emotional contagion’, the unconscious ability to mimic another person’s emotions. And as the disease progresses, destroying more brain cells and cognitive skills, this emotional empathy gets stronger, allowing patients to become more sensitive — and more vulnerable — to the feelings, words, and behaviors of other people."