Pennington Biomedical Research Center Develops Innovative Assessment for Dementia

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Released: Monday, April 04, 2011

BATON ROUGE, LA - In a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center have found that the inability to recognize faces appears to be a sensitive and reliable marker for identifying the earliest stages of dementia in the elderly.
In this study, several hundred individuals over the age of 60, ranging from cognitively normal to individuals with Alzheimer's disease, were administered a newly designed cognitive test that involves the naming of dozens of well known individuals.

 Jeffrey Keller, Ph.D., associate executive director for Basic Research, Hibernia National Bank/Edward G. Schlieder Endowed Chair, and director of Pennington Biomedical's Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention (IDRP) says the study findings are significant.  

"The data not only indicates that facial recognition tests may provide one of the most sensitive ways to detect the earliest stages of dementia, but it also provides important information on how normal aging is differentiated from the earliest stages of dementia," says Robert Brouillette, lead author of the study and IDRP Program Manager.  

"The inability to recognize people is one of the most common complaints we receive from the elderly population, and this memory test provides the first quantification about what normal facial recognition is in the elderly and how it is distinguished from mild cognitive impairment and dementia," said Keller. Participants in the memory study are also enrolled in a longitudinal study at Pennington, "LABrainS".  More than 1400 individuals across Louisiana volunteer for annual cognitive assessments, which form the basis to attract numerous dementia and Alzheimer's disease clinical studies.

Contributors to the Memory for Names Test article were Robert M. Brouillette, Corby K. Martin, John B. Correa, Allison B. Davis, Hongmei Han, William D. Johnson, Heather C. Foil, Aimee Hymel, and Jeffery Keller.

The study was published in the March edition of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. The Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention and this study were funded through philanthropic contributions to the Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation, which supports the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. More information on the Pennington Biomedical Research Center is available at


The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. It is a campus of Louisiana State University and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 44 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and support personnel, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Pennington Biomedical's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 222-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.