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International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease
Volume 2012, Article ID 672927, 9 pages
Clinical Study

Affective Learning and Psychophysiological Reactivity in Dementia Patients

1Psychiatric Clinic of Münsterlingen, P.O. Box 154, 8596 Münsterlingen, Switzerland
2Department of Psychology, University of Zurich, Gerontopsychology Binzmuehlestrasse 14/24, 8050 Zurich, Switzerland
3Department of Psychology and NIMH Center for the Study of Emotion and Attention, University of Florida, P.O. Box 112766, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA

Received 27 June 2011; Accepted 23 December 2011

Academic Editor: Ricardo Nitrini

Copyright © 2012 Andreas Blessing et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


We examined the association of faces with biographical information that varied in emotional content in patients with Alzheimer's disease and a healthy control group. During two experimental sessions, participants rated neutral male faces on dimensions of hedonic valence and emotional arousal, later paired with fictitious biographical information. Both groups changed their ratings of the faces according to the biographical content. Free recall and recognition were tested in the second session. Patients neither recalled the biographical information nor recognized the faces, whereas the controls did. In addition, psychophysiological measures were taken in response to the face stimuli. Patients showed significant heart rate modulation as a function of their emotion ratings, whereas the controls did not. No correlation of rating changes with skin conductance was found in any group. Results suggest that psychophysiological reactions such as heart rate changes may indicate preserved affective associative learning in dementia patients despite impaired explicit memory.