Copying what someone else is doing is a basic social building block that helps people to learn and it can also help Alzheimer's patients, for whom there is neither any cure and nor anyway to slow or prevent the illness.

"Our results suggest that imitation could be used during rehabilitation of Alzheimer's patients," said Ambra Bisio, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Genoa in Italy.

Initially it was doubtful that whether the hardwired learning function of the brain would still be operating normally for patients.

The findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, showed that at least for mild stages of the disease, Alzheimer's patients retained this ability to imitate or mimic a simple gesture by a human or a moving dot on a computer screen, suggesting that such exercises may complement current therapeutic strategies.

Further, the study revealed that patients performed better with the human trainer than they did with the computer, during both physical and cognitive rehabilitation.

This may be because the emotional response that a patient experiences when interacting with a real person is still more beneficial than it is distracting, the researchers maintained adding that the results will help to guide better strategies for rehabilitating patients in the future.

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