While patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) show deficits in attention, manifested by inefficient performance on visual search, new visual talents can emerge in patients with frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), suggesting that, at least in some of the patients, visual attention is spared, if not enhanced. To investigate the underlying mechanisms for visual talent in FTLD (behavioral variant FTD [bvFTD] and semantic dementia [SD]) patients, we measured performance on a visual search paradigm that includes both feature and conjunction search, while simultaneously monitoring saccadic eye movements. AD patients were impaired relative to healthy controls (NC) and FTLD patients on both feature and conjunction search. BvFTD patients showed less accurate performance only on the conjunction search task, but slower response times than NC on all three tasks. In contrast, SD patients were as accurate as controls and had faster response times when faced with the largest number of distracters in the conjunction search task. Measurement of saccades during visual search showed that AD patients explored more of the image, whereas SD patients explored less of the image before making a decision as to whether the target was present. Performance on the conjunction search task positively correlated with gray matter volume in the superior parietal lobe, precuneus, middle frontal gyrus and superior temporal gyrus. These data suggest that despite the presence of extensive temporal lobe degeneration, visual talent in SD may be facilitated by more efficient visual search under distracting conditions due to enhanced function in the dorsal frontoparietal attention network.
Alzheimer’s disease; frontotemporal dementia; conjunction search; voxel-based morphometry; eye movements
We and others have recently reported an association between ALS and single nucleotide polymorphisms on chromosome 9p21 in several populations. Here we show that the associated haplotype is the same in all populations and that several families previously shown to have genetic linkage to this region also share this haplotype. The most parsimonious explanation of these data is that there is a single founder for this form of disease.
Genetics; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; frontotemporal dementia; Finland
Patients with corticobasal degeneration (CBD) pathology present with diverse clinical syndromes also associated with other neuropathologies, including corticobasal syndrome, progressive nonfluent aphasia, and an Alzheimer’s-type dementia. Some present with behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), though this subtype still requires more detailed phenotypic characterization. All patients with CBD pathology and clinical assessment were reviewed (N=17) and selected if they initially met criteria for bvFTD [bvFTD(CBD): N=5]. Available bvFTD patients with Pick’s [bvFTD(Pick’s): N=5] were selected as controls. Patients were also compared to healthy older controls [N=53] on neuropsychological and neuroimaging measures. At initial presentation, bvFTD(CBD) showed few neuropsychological or motor differences from bvFTD(Pick’s). Neuropsychiatrically, they were predominantly apathetic with less florid social disinhibition and eating disturbances, and were more anxious than bvFTD(Pick’s) patients. Voxel-based morphometry revealed similar patterns of predominantly frontal atrophy between bvFTD groups, though overall degree of atrophy was less severe in bvFTD(CBD), who also showed comparative preservation of the frontoinsular rim, with dorsal > ventral frontal atrophy, and sparing of temporal and parietal structures relative to bvFTD(Pick’s) patients. Despite remarkable overlap between the two patient types, bvFTD patients with underlying CBD pathology show subtle clinical features that may distinguish them from patients with Pick’s disease neuropathology.
Corticobasal degeneration; frontotemporal dementia; behavior; neuropsychiatry; neuropsychology; neuropathology
Several families have been reported with autosomal dominant frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), genetically linked to chromosome 9p21. Here we report an expansion of a non-coding GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in the gene C9ORF72 that is strongly associated with disease in a large FTD/ALS kindred, previously reported to be conclusively linked to chromosome 9p. This same repeat expansion was identified in the majority of our families with a combined FTD/ALS phenotype and TDP-43 based pathology. Analysis of extended clinical series found the C9ORF72 repeat expansion to be the most common genetic abnormality in both familial FTD (11.7%) and familial ALS (22.5%). The repeat expansion leads to the loss of one alternatively spliced C9ORF72 transcript and to formation of nuclear RNA foci, suggesting multiple disease mechanisms. Our findings indicate that repeat expansion in C9ORF72 is a major cause of both FTD and ALS.
Deficits in the generation and control of saccades have been described in clinically-defined frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Because clinical FTD syndromes can correspond to a number of different underlying neuropathologic FTD and non-FTD diagnoses, we sought to determine the saccade abnormalities associated with autopsy-defined cases of FTLD and AD.
Participants and design
An infrared eye tracker was used to record visually guided saccades to ten degree targets and antisaccades in 28 autopsy-confirmed FTD and 10 AD subjects, an average of 35.6 ± 10 months prior to death and 27 age-matched normal controls (NC). 12 FTD subjects had FTLD-TDP pathology, 15 had FTLD-tau pathology and one showed FTLD-FUS pathology. Receiver operating curve (ROC) statistics were used to determine diagnostic value of oculomotor variables. Neuroanatomical correlates of oculomotor abnormalities were investigated using voxel-based morphometry (VBM).
All FTD and AD subjects were impaired relative to NC on the antisaccade task. However, only FTLD-tau and AD cases displayed reflexive visually-guided saccade abnormalities. AD cases displayed prominent increases in horizontal saccade latency that differentiated them from FTD cases. Impairments in velocity and gain were most severe in individuals with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) but were also present in other tauopathies. Vertical and horizontal saccade velocity and gain were able to differentiate PSP cases from other patients. Vertical saccade velocity was strongly correlated with dorsal midbrain volume.
Decreased visually-guided saccade velocity and gain are suggestive of underlying tau pathology in FTD, with vertical saccade abnormalities most diagnostic of PSP.
Frontotemporal Dementia; Corticobasal Degeneration; Progressive Supranuclear Palsy; Ocular Motility
Alzheimer’s disease (AD), frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and semantic dementia (SD) are neurodegenerative diseases that differ in their socioemotional presentations. Mutual gaze (i.e. when two individuals make eye contact) is a building block of social behavior that may be differentially affected by these diseases. We studied 13 AD patients, 11 FTD patients, 9 SD patients and 22 normal controls as they engaged in conversations with partners about relationship conflicts. Physiological reactivity was monitored during the conversations and trained raters coded mutual gaze from videotaped recordings. Results indicated that mutual gaze was preserved in AD couples. Mutual gaze was diminished in FTD couples while SD couples showed evidence of greater mutual gaze. SD couples also showed lower physiological reactivity compared to controls. Across patient groups, reduced mutual gaze was associated with greater behavioral disturbance as measured by the Neuropsychiatric Inventory, especially on the disinhibition and apathy subscales. These results point to subtle differences between the three types of dementia in the social realm that help to illuminate the nature of the disease process and could aid in differential diagnosis.
Alzheimer’s disease; frontotemporal dementia; gaze; social behavior; autonomic nervous system
There is no dedicated therapy for frontotemporal dementia (FTD). In order to treat the often devastating behavioral disturbances that interfere with both normal social functioning and the ability of caregivers to provide needed support, off-label medication usage is frequent. In addition to antidepressant and antipsychotic medications, which afford some benefits, US FDA-approved treatments for Alzheimer’s disease are often used, including both cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine. Here, we review the various clinical manifestations of FTD, a general approach to treatment and the goals of any potential therapies. We review all of the existing literature on the use of cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine in FTD. While cholinesterase inhibitors do not currently have a place in FTD treatment, memantine may be helpful, although the results of two placebo-controlled trials with this agent are not yet available. Finally, we discuss our view that such approaches will probably become supplanted by rational, molecularly-based therapies currently in development.
Alzheimer’s disease; frontotemporal dementia; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; FUS; progressive nonfluent aphasia; semantic dementia; Tau; TDP-43
Frontotemporal dementia-amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (FTD-ALS) is a heritable form of FTD, but the gene(s) responsible for the majority of autosomal dominant FTD-ALS cases have yet to be found. Previous studies have identified a region on chromosome 9p that is associated with FTD and ALS.
The authors report the clinical, volumetric MRI, neuropathological and genetic features of a new chromosome 9p-linked FTD-ALS family, VSM-20.
Ten members of family VSM-20 displayed heterogeneous clinical phenotypes of isolated behavioural-variant FTD (bvFTD), ALS or a combination of the two. Parkinsonism was common, with one individual presenting with a corticobasal syndrome. Analysis of structural MRI scans from five affected family members revealed grey- and white-matter loss that was most prominent in the frontal lobes, with mild parietal and occipital lobe atrophy, but less temporal lobe atrophy than in 10 severity-matched sporadic bvFTD cases. Autopsy in three family members showed a consistent and unique subtype of FTLD-TDP pathology. Genome-wide linkage analysis conclusively linked family VSM-20 to a 28.3 cM region between D9S1808 and D9S251 on chromosome 9p, reducing the published minimal linked region to a 3.7 Mb interval. Genomic sequencing and expression analysis failed to identify mutations in the 10 known and predicted genes within this candidate region, suggesting that next-generation sequencing may be needed to determine the mutational mechanism associated with chromosome 9p-linked FTD-ALS.
Family VSM-20 significantly reduces the region linked to FTD-ALS on chromosome 9p. A distinct pattern of brain atrophy and neuropathological findings may help to identify other families with FTD-ALS caused by this genetic abnormality.
There are few studies that evaluate the clinical outcomes of individuals with non-amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The purpose of this study was to evaluate baseline predictors of clinical progression after 2 years for patients with dysexecutive MCI (dMCI), a single-domain non-amnestic MCI subgroup.
We evaluated clinical progression in a sample of 31 older adults with dMCI. Clinical progression was defined as a worsening on the Clinical Dementia Rating sum of boxes at the 2-year visit, whereas patients were classified as stable if the score did not worsen over 2 years. We compared baseline brain MRI, neuropsychological tests, and health risk factors.
Twelve individuals with dMCI progressed clinically, and 19 individuals remained stable over 2 years. Compared to the stable dMCI patients, the dMCI patients who progressed showed brain atrophy in the bilateral insula and left lateral temporal lobe on MRI. dMCI patients who progressed were also older, had lower baseline performance on category fluency and a spatial location task, and reported fewer dysexecutive symptoms. Health risk factors, except hypertension, did not differ between groups.
The results suggest that dMCI patients who progress relatively quickly over 2 years may have unique clinical and brain MRI features.
Executive function; Non-amnestic mild cognitive impairment; Dysexecutive mild cognitive impairment
Importance of the field
Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia in the elderly, and there is no disease-modifying therapy yet available. Immunotherapy directed against the β-amyloid peptide may be capable of slowing the rate of disease progression. Bapineuzumab, an anti–β-amyloid monoclonal antibody, will be the first such agent to emerge from Phase III clinical trials.
Areas covered in this review
The primary literature on bapineuzumab from 2009–2010 is reviewed in its entirety, along with the literature on AN1792, a first-generation anti–β-amyloid vaccine, from 2003–2009. Other Alzheimer’s disease immunotherapeutics currently in development, according to www.clinicaltrials.gov, are also discussed.
What the reader will gain
In addition to a critical appraisal of the Phase II trial results for bapineuzumab, this review considers the broader field of immunotherapy for Alzheimer’s disease as a whole, including the challenges ahead.
Take home message
Bapineuzumab appears capable of reducing the cerebral β-amyloid peptide burden in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. However, particularly in APOE ε4 carriers, its ability to slow disease progression remains uncertain, and vasogenic edema — a dose-limiting and potentially severe adverse reaction — may limit its clinical applicability.
Alzheimer’s disease; β-amyloid peptide (amyloid-β Aβ); Bapineuzumab; Immunotherapy (immunization); Monoclonal antibody; Vasogenic edema
There are currently no FDA-approved treatments for frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). The objectives of this study were to explore the tolerability of memantine treatment in FTLD and to monitor for possible effects on behavior, cognition and function. 43 individuals who met clinical criteria for FTLD (21 with frontotemporal dementia [FTD], 13 with semantic dementia [SD] and 9 with progressive nonfluent aphasia [PA]) received 26 weeks of open label treatment with memantine at a target dose of 20 mg daily. Concurrent treatment with acetylcholinesterase inhibitors was prohibited. Cognitive and functional outcome measures included the MMSE, ADAS-cog, CDR-sum of boxes, NPI, Frontal Behavior Inventory (FBI), Executive Interview (EXIT25), Texas Functional Living Scale (TFLS), Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) and UPDRS-motor scale. Most subjects were able to tolerate the target dose of memantine. A transient improvement was observed on the total NPI score primarily in the FTD group. Variable declines were observed on the ADAS-cog, EXIT25, FBI, NPI, TFLS and UPDRS scores. The FTD and SD groups declined on most of the cognitive and behavioral outcome measures, but remained stable on the UPDRS, whereas the PA group remained relatively stable on the ADAS-cog, NPI and TFLS, but declined on the UPDRS. Memantine was well tolerated in these subjects. Future placebo-controlled trials of memantine in FTLD are warranted and may have greater power to detect behavioral and cognitive effects if focused on the FTD and SD clinical syndromes.
Frontotemporal dementia; semantic dementia; progressive nonfluent aphasia; memantine; open-label treatment study
There is increasing recognition that set-shifting, a form of cognitive control, is mediated by different neural structures. However, these regions have not yet been carefully identified as many studies do not account for the influence of component processes (e.g., motor speed). We investigated gray matter correlates of set-shifting while controlling for component processes. Using the Design Fluency (DF), Trail Making Test (TMT), and Color Word Interference (CWI) subtests from the Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS), we investigated the correlation between set-shifting performance and gray matter volume in 160 subjects with neurodegenerative disease, mild cognitive impairment, and healthy older adults using voxel-based morphometry. All three set-shifting tasks correlated with multiple, widespread gray matter regions. After controlling for the component processes, set-shifting performance correlated with focal regions in prefrontal and posterior parietal cortices. We also identified bilateral prefrontal cortex and the right posterior parietal lobe as common sites for set-shifting across the three tasks. There was a high degree of multicollinearity between the set-shifting conditions and the component processes of TMT and CWI, suggesting DF may better isolate set-shifting regions. Overall, these findings highlight the neuroanatomical correlates of set-shifting and the importance of controlling for component processes when investigating complex cognitive tasks.
D-KEFS; Design fluency; Trail making test; Color word interference; Executive function; Voxel-based morphometry
There are no Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medications indicated for the treatment of frontotemporal dementia (FTD). We sought to determine the most commonly used drugs used to treat behavioral variant FTD (bvFTD) in specialized dementia clinics.
Medication and demographic data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers of California (ARCC) and a multicenter FTD natural history study (NHS) data set were compared in bvFTD and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and effects of demographic variables were assessed using logistic regression.
Overall, the percentage of patients taking one or more FDA-approved AD or psychiatric medications was similar in bvFTD and AD; however, after controlling for demographic variables, acetylcholinesterase inhibitor (AChI) use was less common in bvFTD, whereas memantine use remained similar in the 2 groups.
Despite lack of evidence for efficacy, the use of AChIs and memantine is common in bvFTD. Clinical trials should be pursued to determine the optimal therapeutic interventions for bvFTD.
frontotemporal dementia; Alzheimer’s disease; treatment; donepezil; memantine; galantamine; antipsychotic agents
Deficits in the ability to suppress automatic behaviors lead to impaired decision making, aberrant motor behavior, and impaired social function in humans with frontal lobe neurodegeneration. We have studied patients with different patterns of frontal lobe dysfunction resulting from frontotemporal lobar degeneration or Alzheimer's disease, investigating their ability to perform visually guided saccades and smooth pursuit eye movements and to suppress visually guided saccades on the antisaccade task. Patients with clinical syndromes associated with dorsal frontal lobe damage had normal visually guided saccades but were impaired relative to other patients and control subjects in smooth pursuit eye movements and on the antisaccade task. The percentage of correct antisaccade responses was correlated with neuropsychological measures of frontal lobe function and with estimates of frontal lobe gray matter volume based on analyses of structural magnetic resonance images. After controlling for age, gender, cognitive status, and potential interactions between disease group and oculomotor function, an unbiased voxel-based morphometric analysis identified the volume of a segment of the right frontal eye field (FEF) as positively correlated with antisaccade performance (less volume equaled lower percentage of correct responses) but not with either pursuit performance or antisaccade or visually guided saccade latency or gain. In contrast, the volume of the presupplementary motor area (pre-SMA) and a portion of the supplementary eye fields correlated with antisaccade latency (less volume equaled shorter latency) but not with the percentage of correct responses. These results suggest that integrity of the presupplementary motion area/ supplementary eye fields is critical for supervisory processes that slow the onset of saccades, facilitating voluntary saccade targeting decisions that rely on the FEF.
antisaccade; smooth pursuit; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; presupplementary motor area; supplementary eye field; frontal eye field; brain volume
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) often overlaps clinically with corticobasal syndrome (CBS) and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), both of which have prominent eye movement abnormalities. To investigate the ability of oculomotor performance to differentiate between FTLD, Alzheimer's disease, CBS and PSP, saccades and smooth pursuit were measured in three FTLD subtypes, including 24 individuals with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), 19 with semantic dementia (SD) and six with progressive non-fluent aphasia (PA), as compared to 28 individuals with Alzheimer's disease, 15 with CBS, 10 with PSP and 27 control subjects. Different combinations of oculomotor abnormalities were identified in all clinical syndromes except for SD, which had oculomotor performance that was indistinguishable from age-matched controls. Only PSP patients displayed abnormalities in saccade velocity, whereas abnormalities in saccade gain were observed in PSP > CBS > Alzheimer's disease subjects. All patient groups except those with SD were impaired on the anti-saccade task, however only the FTLD subjects and not Alzheimer's disease, CBS or PSP groups, were able to spontaneously self-correct anti-saccade errors as well as controls. Receiver operating characteristic statistics demonstrated that oculomotor findings were superior to neuropsychological tests in differentiating PSP from other disorders, and comparable to neuropsychological tests in differentiating the other patient groups. These data suggest that oculomotor assessment may aid in the diagnosis of FTLD and related disorders.
oculomotor; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; corticobasal syndrome; progressive supranuclear palsy; Alzheimer's disease
To characterize cognitive and behavioral features, physical findings and brain atrophy patterns in pathology-proven corticobasal degeneration (CBD) and corticobasal syndrome (CBS) with known histopathology.
We reviewed clinical and MRI data in all patients evaluated at our center with either an autopsy diagnosis of CBD (n=18) or clinical CBS at first presentation with known histopathology (n=40). Atrophy patterns were compared using voxel-based morphometry.
CBD was associated with four clinical syndromes: progressive nonfluent aphasia (5), behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (5), executive-motor (7), and posterior cortical atrophy (1). Behavioral or cognitive problems were the initial symptoms in 15/18 patients; less than half exhibited early motor findings. Compared to controls, CBD patients showed atrophy in dorsal prefrontal and peri-rolandic cortex, striatum and brainstem (p<0.001 uncorrected). The most common pathologic substrates for clinical CBS were CBD (35%), Alzheimer’s disease (AD, 23%), progressive supranuclear palsy (13%), and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) with TDP inclusions (13%). CBS was associated with perirolandic atrophy irrespective of underlying pathology. In CBS due to FTLD (tau or TDP), atrophy extended into prefrontal cortex, striatum and brainstem, while in CBS due to AD, atrophy extended into temporoparietal cortex and precuneus (p<0.001 uncorrected).
Frontal lobe involvement is characteristic of CBD, and in many patients frontal, not parietal or basal ganglia symptoms, dominate early-stage disease. CBS is driven by medial peri-rolandic dysfunction, but this anatomy is not specific to one single underlying histopathology. Antemortem prediction of CBD will remain challenging until clinical features of CBD are redefined, and sensitive, specific biomarkers are identified.
Some patients meeting behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) diagnostic criteria progress slowly and plateau at mild symptom severity. Such patients have mild neuropsychological and functional impairments, lack characteristic bvFTD brain atrophy, and have thus been referred to as bvFTD “phenocopies” or slowly progressive (bvFTD-SP). The few patients with bvFTD-SP that have been studied at autopsy have found no evidence of FTD pathology, suggesting that bvFTD-SP is neuropathologically distinct from other forms of FTD. Here, we describe two patients with bvFTD-SP with chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) hexanucleotide expansions.
Three hundred and eighty-four patients with FTD clinical spectrum and Alzheimer’s disease diagnoses were screened for C9ORF72 expansion. Two bvFTD-SP mutation carriers were identified. Neuropsychological and functional data, as well as brain atrophy patterns assessed using voxel-based morphometry (VBM), were compared with 44 patients with sporadic bvFTD and 85 healthy controls.
Both patients were age 48 at baseline and met possible bvFTD criteria. In the first patient, VBM revealed thalamic and posterior insula atrophy. Over seven years, his neuropsychological performance and brain atrophy remained stable. In the second patient, VBM revealed cortical atrophy with subtle frontal and insular volume loss. Over two years, her neuropsychological and functional scores as well as brain atrophy remained stable.
C9ORF72 mutations can present with a bvFTD-SP phenotype. Some bvFTD-SP patients may have neurodegenerative pathology, and C9ORF72 mutations should be considered in patients with bvFTD-SP and a family history of dementia or motor neuron disease.
C9ORF72; C9FTD/ALS; frontotemporal dementia; genetics; dementia