Researchers suggest reducing visual clutter could increase recognition in Alzheimer's patients

Alzheimer's is one of the major threats to independent living, because the patient typically requires extensive care as the disease progresses. Researchers have been attempting to learn more about the disease, but have yet to find a cure or way to prevent it. Recently, however, researchers may have found a way to help seniors with the beginning stages of Alzheimer's better manage the disease.

A new study published in the journal Hippocampus suggests that patients at the onset of the disease may be able to function better if they were not exposed to as much visual clutter. The researchers note that people with Alzheimer's sometimes have trouble recognizing people and things because they cannot tell the difference between certain things.

"Not only does memory seem to be very closely linked to perception, but it's also likely that one affects the other," said Morgan Barense of the University of Toronto's Department of Psychology. "Alzheimer's patients may have trouble recognizing a loved one's face not just because they can't remember it but also because they aren't able to correctly perceive its distinct combination of features to begin with."

The research team looked at patients who suffered from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) as they tried to determine the differences between two rotated pictures that were side by side. During the first test, patients were shown pictures that resembled blobs, which were difficult for them to differentiate. However, the patients were then given photos that showed the differences were much more apparent and they were able to tell the two apart.

Interestingly, researchers reported that they completed the same test on people who were at a higher risk of MCI but were currently showing no signs of cognitive difficulties.

Although there is no cure for the disease, there have been multiple studies that suggest early detection is crucial to the treatment of Alzheimer's. Research published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society suggests that early detection could help slow the disease's progression, and executive function tests, such as looking at one's ability to practice self-control, could be key in helping determine patients who are in early stages when they rarely show symptoms.