Reagan's speeches may have shown early signs of Alzheimer's
Former President Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 1994 - five years after he left the White House - but a new study suggests his speaking patterns during his two terms in office may have hinted at the disease.
Scientists looked at transcripts from news conferences that Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush held during their terms in office. They discovered that Reagan exhibited subtle changes in speaking patterns during his presidency that are linked to the development of dementia.
Reagan was more repetitive with his words and substituted nonspecific terms such as "thing" for specific nouns. He also used significantly fewer unique words over time.
Reagan exhibited these changes more toward the end of his presidency.Bush, who has not been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, did not show the same subtle changes in his speech.
Reagan's mental state was a political issue even before he became president. His adversaries often claimed his tendency to forget names and make contradictory statements was a sign of dementia.The study's authors note that the findings, which are published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, do not prove that the late president had dementia that affected his judgement while in office. A writer for The New York Times also noted that doctors and key aides did not detect "any changes in his mental abilities while in office."
The researchers hope that this technique will help catch signs of Alzheimer's and other neurological disease earlier.