Sense of identity in advanced Alzheimer's dementia: a cognitive dissociation between sameness and selfhood?

Conscious Cogn. 2013 Dec;22(4):1456-67. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2013.09.009. Epub 2013 Oct 29.


We looked at whether sense of identity persists in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and if its profile remains the same between two examinations. A specifically designed protocol was administered to 16 AD patients in the mild to severe stages of dementia and to 16 matched healthy controls, both living in the same institution. We showed that sense of identity was broadly preserved in AD patients. The patterns of their responses were similar to those of controls, and remained consistent over a two-week period. However, some qualitative characteristics of sense of identity in AD patients differed significantly from those of controls, suggesting that AD patients may not be able to update their self-knowledge, probably because of their episodic memory deficit. These results are discussed in the light of both current models of the self and philosophical concepts such as sameness and selfhood.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Dementia; Sameness; Self; Selfhood; Sense of identity.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self Concept*
  • Severity of Illness Index