What is Agnosia?
Agnosia takes place as the frontal, occipital and temporal lobes of the brain become damaged. The brain with Alzheimer’s or Dementia loses its ability to translate what the eyes see. This can cause a lot of confusion for people struggling with this condition. An example would be common objects around one’s home such as a toothbrush and a hairbrush. They’re both brushes, are commonly found within the bathroom, and have handles on them with bristles that are used around the head area. A person with Agnosia can confuse one for the other.
A patient in their 80s exhibited symptoms of Diffuse Lewy Body dementia. She only displayed a problem with self-image recognition. She responded in two distinct ways. First, she mistook her reflection in the mirror for a goddess and offered conventional prayers. Then, after carefully examining the image, she realized that the image was wearing her clothes and accessories. She then entered the second phase, where she ceased to worship and demanded the restoration of her possessions by yelling and fighting. She became enraged at her reflection and claimed that she had stolen her clothing and jewelry. She refused to calm down after several attempts, so the resident and those nearby were told to find the "thief" and return her things. We tried FMRI utilizing the patient's photo and the reflected image as the test paradigm, but we were unable to get data that was free of artifacts. This is “Patient 2” of Sadanandavalli Retnaswami Chandra and Thomas Gregor Issac’s study on Neurodegeneration and Mirror Image Agnosia. A total of 69 patients were studied—all of whom experienced neurodegeneration.
What Causes It?
Agnosia develops when specific neural pathways in the brain are disrupted. A sensory processing region is involved in these pathways. These brain regions serve as knowledge and information repositories for perception and object recognition.
Types of Agnosia
Agnosia has three different types: visual: This type of agnosia causes the inability to recall information associated with an object such as its name or use. However, this doesn’t prevent you from drawing an object; auditory: Also known as pure word deafness. This is the inability to not recognize or understand spoken words even though the ability to hear is fine and tactile: It is the inability to recognize objects by touch. The person can still recognize the object by sight, feel its weight, its uses, or even draw it. Here are a few examples of each:
Also known as “face blindness”, Prosopagnosia is losing the ability to recognize familiar faces. A region in the brain called the fusiform face area develops issues and causes this type of agnosia. Alzheimer’s disease can also cause difficulty with face recognition due to the deterioration that can damage the same region affected by Prosopagnosia.
This is the inability to recognize and identify familiar voices. It’s usually associated with a lesion in the right half of the brain. You can still understand spoken words or recognize sounds from the environment and sounds made by objects.
This is the inability to recognize or orient the different parts of your body visually. You still have the awareness of where your limbs are at all times.
How Can We Help/Assist?
Whether you’re a caregiver or a family member trying to look after your elderly loved one, you can follow these tips to make their situation easier and more comfortable.
Place labels on places around the house such as the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, etc. If your senior loved one doesn’t recognize certain objects, place a label on them as well. You can also provide pictures of familiar people with their names on them. At social events such as family gatherings or reunions, you can provide basic background memories of people to help them recognize people.
Always make your loved one carry a form of identification. This is in case they wander off and/or get lost. They can get confused and walk even farther from you. Having identification with them will make finding your loved one easier.
Patience and Reassurance
Having agnosia is difficult for the seniors and their loved ones. Taking care of them require lots of patience and compassion especially on the bad days. Reassure them that you’re always there to help to make them feel safe and secure.
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