Persistence of Self in Individuals with Alzheimer's Disease: Evidence from Language and Visual Recognition

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The persistence of self in individuals with probable Alzheimer's disease was investigated via language and visual self-recognition. Seventy-eight adults (ages 66—103) participated: 26 with mild cognitive impairments, 26 with moderate cognitive impairments, and 26 without impairment. Although frequency of language usage (during an interview) declined across impairment levels, there were no significant differences in either rates or proportions of pronoun and attribute usage. When asked to identify themselves in photographs taken with an instant camera, cognitively impaired individuals — in spite of forgetting the photographic session only minutes earlier — exhibited unimpaired self-recognition, a dissociation consistent with a preserved self. Taken together, these findings indicate a persistence of self in individuals with dementia, and have implications for how Alzheimer's is characterized and experienced, and how individuals are cared for.