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Face masks protect from infection but may impair social cognition in older adults and people with dementia

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Schroeter,  Matthias L.
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Kynast,  Jana
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Villringer,  Arno
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Schroeter, M. L., Kynast, J., Villringer, A., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2021). Face masks protect from infection but may impair social cognition in older adults and people with dementia. Frontiers in Psychology, 12: 640548. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.640548.


Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-730D-8
Abstract
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic will have a high impact on older adults and people with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Social cognition enables the understanding of another individual's feelings, intentions, desires and mental states, which is particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic. To prevent further spread of the disease face masks have been recommended. Although justified for prevention of this potentially devastating disease, they partly cover the face and hamper emotion recognition and probably mindreading. As social cognition is already affected by aging and dementia, strategies must be developed to cope with these profound changes of communication. Face masking even could accelerate cognitive decline in the long run. Further studies are of uppermost importance to address face masks' impact on social cognition in aging and dementia, for instance by longitudinally investigating decline before and in the pandemic, and to design compensatory strategies. These issues are also relevant for face masking in general, such as in medical surroundings—beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.