Empathy in Alzheimer's Disease: Review of Findings and Proposed Model

J Alzheimers Dis. 2019;69(4):921-933. doi: 10.3233/JAD-180730.


Empathy is essential for social interaction and a crucial trait to understand the intentions and behaviors of others and to react accordingly. Alzheimer's disease (AD) affects both cognitive and emotional processes and can lead to social dysfunction. Empathy results from the interaction of four components: shared neural representation, self-awareness, mental flexibility, and emotion regulation. This review discusses the abilities and deficits of patients with AD from the perspective of subcomponents of empathy and integrates these facets into a model of human empathy. The aim was to investigate the components that are affected by AD and the ways in which patients are still able to empathize with others in their social environment. It concludes that AD patients show a pattern of relatively preserved affective aspects and impairments in cognitive components of empathy and points out specific areas with the need for further research.

Keywords: Affective sharing; awareness; dementia; emotion regulation; mental flexibility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology*
  • Empathy*
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological