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Understanding Symbol Comprehension Among OAs With Depression, Dementia, AD

November 15, 2019

In older adults with Alzheimer disease dementia and mild cognitive impairment, symbols with distracting features hinder comprehension. Researchers published their findings online in the journal Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders. 

“Symbols with visual cues, by contrast, facilitate symbol comprehension in Alzheimer disease dementia and may even be advantageous over standardized symbols used in public life,” researchers reported. 

The study investigated symbol processing in older adults with disorders associated with cognitive dysfunction compared with healthy older adults. Four different categories of symbols were used in processing tasks completed by 30 patients with major depressive disorder, 35 patients with mild cognitive impairment, 55 patients with Alzheimer disease dementia, and 90 healthy control subjects. 

Healthy older adults demonstrated higher accuracy of symbol comprehension compared with older adults with major depressive disorder, mild cognitive impairment, or Alzheimer disease dementia, the study found. Participants with Alzheimer disease dementia had the lowest accuracy in comprehending symbols. 

In both older adults who were healthy and in those with major depressive disorder, the type of symbol category barely affected processing performance, according to the study. Conversely, different symbol categories significantly affected performance in older adults with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer disease dementia. 

Jolynn Tumolo


Boedeker S, Schulz P, Beblo T, et al. Symbol comprehension in patients with Alzheimer disease dementia, mild cognitive impairment, and major depressive disorder [published online ahead of print September 19, 2019. Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord. doi: 10.1097/WAD.0000000000000347


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