Alzheimer’s Patient Reverted Back to Earlier Writing Style after Diagnosis, Reveals Analysis of Woman’s Long-term Journals

Alzheimer’s Patient Reverted Back to Earlier Writing Style after Diagnosis, Reveals Analysis of Woman’s Long-term Journals
The writing style of a woman’s diary entries over 31 years has given researchers a glimpse into the progression of her cognitive decline from Alzheimer's disease, revealing a relationship between language use and the transition from healthy to severe dementia. University of Toronto (UT) researchers specializing in language variations and change studied Toronto resident Vivian White’s journals and discovered that, around the time she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, she began using the first-person pronoun “I.” “This suggests that individuals may revert back to a more formal, fundamental writing style when they experience cognitive decline,” Sali Tagliamonte, PhD, a UT linguistics professor and department chair, said in a news release. The journal entries span the years 1985 to 2016, when White was 60 to 90 years old. Through the first 24 years, she omitted a subject up to 76% of the time in her writing. For example, in an entry dated March 23, 1985, she wrote, “Made cranberry muffins.” But after her Alzheimer’s diagnosis at 84, she included the pronoun “I” in her writing: “I made cranberry muffins,” she wrote on Jan. 1, 2016. “Diary writing is a style, and one that is known to have complex constraints in which the subject 'I' is often omitted in specific locations,” said Tagliamonte. “It’s a learned behavior acquired at a later stage than more basic writing or acquisition of the vernacular language.
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