Clutter-free environment may help those with Alzheimer’s

Keeping the environment clutter-free may help those with Alzheimer’s, according to researchers at the University of Toronto and Georgia Tech, as reported by Psych Central. The study found individuals with early stage Alzheimer’s disease may have memory problems due to having trouble noticing differences between similar objects.

The study supports growing research that suggests that the medial temporal lobe — believed at one time to support memory only — may also play a role in object perception.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is considered a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. So, for the study, researchers asked MCI patients to look at two pictures side-by-side that were rotated. The MCI patients were then asked to identify if they were identical or not.

In one instance the photos varied only slightly but were not a perfect match either in shape, color or pattern. With these photos MCI patients struggled greatly to pinpoint identical objects.

In another episode, the blob-like objects appeared with photos in which non-matches were more extreme and varied widely. For example, a picture of a butterfly was shown next to a photo of a microwave. Mixing the very similar blob-like objects with photos of dissimilar objects greatly reduced the amount of interference.

There are practical considerations that can be taken away from the study. For instance, Psych Central brings up the idea that a telephone’s buttons are all identical in size. The only variation are the numbers on the buttons. This everyday occurrence can be very difficult for those who suffer from object perception problems. In this instance, a phone with buttons of varying size and color may help.

The study also found that those individuals at-risk for MCI, who showed no previous signs of cognitive impairment, performed similarly to those with MCI. This suggests that this test could be used an early indicator of cognitive decline.

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