Clinical accounts of Alzheimer's disease (AD) suggest that some patients exhibit markedly diminished curiosity and initiative early in the course of their illness. Such behavioral changes are extremely difficult to measure experimentally. We studied one aspect of curiosity by measuring exploratory eye movements in response to provocative visual stimuli in 12 patients with probable AD and 10 matched controls. Subjects viewed slides, each of which contained an incongruous or irregular figure paired with a congruous or regular one. Unlike controls, who spent significantly more time viewing the incongruous stimuli, AD patients distributed their viewing time equally and spent significantly less time than controls looking at the novel stimuli. Additionally, when presented with picture slides containing an unexpected element, AD patients exhibited diminished visual exploration overall and decreased attention to the incongruous part. Further analyses suggest that the results cannot be adequately explained by a general decline in cognition or by problems with ocular motility or directing visual attention. We conclude that AD patients exhibit diminished curiosity which can be measured by the study of exploratory eye movements.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology