An in-depth analysis of Agatha Christie's novels has suggested that she was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Academics at the University of Toronto studied a selection of Christie's novels written between the ages of 28 and 82, counting the numbers of different words, indefinite nouns and phrases used in each. They found that the vocabulary size decreased sharply, while repetition of phrases and indefinite word usage (something, thing, anything) in her novels increased significantly. "These language effects are recognised as symptoms of memory difficulties associated with Alzheimer's disease" said Dr Ian Lancashire from the English department and computer scientist Dr Graeme Hirst.
Although Christie, whose books have sold over two billion copies worldwide, was never diagnosed with dementia, the authors of the study conclude that the changes in her writing are consistent not with normal ageing, but with Alzheimer's disease. The Canadian study supports a 2004 comparison of two early works by Iris Murdoch with her last novel, Jackson's Dilemma, which concluded that textual analysis could be used to detect the onset of dementia before anyone [has] the remotest suspicion of any untoward intellectual decline".Jackson's Dilemma was published in 1995 to a poor critical reception, and Murdoch was found to have Alzheimer's the following year. Scientists from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London compared it to earlier works Under the Net and The Sea, The Sea, and found that her vocabulary had worsened in the final work, which contained fewer words and clauses per sentence on average.
Lancashire and Hirst are now continuing and extending their study, looking into changes in Christie's use of passive verbs and the decline in her syntactic complexity. They also want to compare her writing with the work of a contemporary for whom dementia is not suspected.

Source: guardian.co.uk at 13.53 BST on Friday 3 April 2009

1 comment:

maria rosa said...

Interesante el informe observando la evolución de una persona a lo largo de su vida.
Me encanta todo lo que estoy aprendiendo a través de tu blog, gracias.
Un beso.