Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dementia and the Internet

What does FTD (frontotemporal dementia, not the florist) have in common with internet message boards? They both give people extreme difficulty detecting sarcasm.

FTD is the second most common form of dementia, and leaves its victims unable to detect the moods of other people. One in 4,000 people are suffering from FTD and unable to tell when their caregivers are depressed or angry. They're also quite frequently conned into giving away large amounts of money (no, there is no directory of FTD patients. I checked.)

Researchers have now developed a test to diagnose FTD, to tell if patients can spot discrepancies between a person's words and the tone of their voice. Basically, they have actors run through a script once playing it "straight," and a second time loading up their words with sarcasm ("I'm ever so glad we're spending millions of dollars to study soil composition.") FTD patients always take the spoken words literally.

"When questioned about the applicability of the test to people from countries not renowned for their appreciation of sarcasm or irony, Hodges said the test could be modified." Are they sure he wasn't being sarcastic?

Digg this Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments:

The header image is adapted from a photo taken by Bill McChesney and used under a creative commons license.
ss_blog_claim=59c833aa066112eeabade1b22648d49b ss_blog_claim=59c833aa066112eeabade1b22648d49b