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Impact of training dementia caregivers in sensitivity to nonverbal emotion signals

Contact Information


Carol Magai ,

Dementia; nonverbal; emotion


Ninety-one mid- to late-stage dementia patients residing in nursing homes, along with their staff caregivers, participated in a study designed to assess whether training caregivers in sensitivity to nonverbal communication could enhance mood and reduce symptoms in patients and improve psychological well-being in caregivers. Patients and staff at three nursing homes comprised three groups that were randomly assigned to either a nonverbal sensitivity group, a behavioral placebo group that received instruction in the cognitive and behavioral aspects of dementia, and a wait-list control. Training consisted of 10 one-hour sessions taught by a clinical psychologist using prepared materials. Patient measures, which were taken at baseline and at 4 three-week intervals, included patient symptomatology (depression, agitation, behavioral symptoms), as reported by the staff caregivers, and positive and negative facial expressions of emotion elicited during a face-to-face interview and coded by trained research staff. Results indicated that positive affect increased sharply during the first 6 weeks after intervention in the nonverbal group, with the placebo and wait-list controls showing no change. There was also a decline in negative affect across time for all groups. Effects with respect to patient symptomatology did not reach significance. Caregivers in both training groups showed a decline in symptomatology, whereas the wait-list control group did not.


Magai, C., Cohen, C. I., & Gomberg, D. (2002). Impact of training dementia caregivers in sensitivity to nonverbal emotion signals. International psychogeriatrics, 14(1), 25–38.





Conent Area

Carol Magai

EWB-Related Construct

(3) Positive Affect

Study Design

Species or Study Population

(5) RCT

Sex (%Female)

Patients: 93.4%
Caregivers: 100%

Age (Mean, SD)

Patients: 85.9, 7.8
Caregivers: 41.6, 6.2

Younger Controls?


Longitudinal Data?


Sample Size



nonverbal communication training

Ethnicity (%white)

Patients: 87%
Caregivers: 75.0% African American

Inclusion Criteria

Dementia level was screened for dementia using MDS+ charts (Minimum Data Set) and the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE)

Exclusion Criteria

Not stated

EWB Measures

(1) Facial expressions of emotion during a semistructured interview

Non-EWB Behavioral

(1) Behavioral Pathology in Alzheimer’s Disease Rating Scale
(2) Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory
(3) Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia
(4) Brief Symptom Inventory

Physiological Measures


Brain IMaging Modality

Brain IMaging Paradigm


Brain Region/Circuit


Biological Measures


Other Neural Measures

Data Availability?


Data Avalability Details


Diagnostic Measures

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