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Alzheimer's patients "know more"

Alzheimer's disease patients have more memory than had previously been thought, a Dundee University-led study has found.

Many can retain knowledge into later stages of the illness, although they find it harder to communicate it. Researchers said the results showed that rather than not retaining the knowledge, the patients had difficulty understanding what was being asked of them.

It is hoped the study findings could lead to the development of new treatments that might help Alzheimer's patients retain their memories for longer.

Professor Trevor Harley, dean of the school of psychology at the university, said: "We found that if you probe the patient in the right way with appropriate questions that support them to search their stored knowledge, they can often generate more detailed information."

Professor Harley said the part of the brain which stored language knowledge was different from the part responsible for understanding a task and knowing what constitutes an appropriate answer.

"When people seem unable to remember something, they might still know it and you might be able to help them remember it if you phrase the question in the right way," he added.

The research is published in the current issue of the Aphasiology journal.

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Dundee University School of Psychology