Clearer delineation of the phenotypic heterogeneity within behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) will help uncover underlying biological mechanisms, and will improve clinicians’ ability to predict disease course and design targeted management strategies.
To identify subtypes of bvFTD syndrome based on distinctive patterns of atrophy defined by selective vulnerability of specific functional networks targeted in bvFTD, using statistical classification approaches.
Design, Setting and Participants
In this retrospective observational study, 104 patients meeting the Frontotemporal Dementia Consortium consensus criteria for bvFTD were evaluated at the Memory and Aging Center of Department of Neurology at University of California, San Francisco. Patients underwent a multidisciplinary clinical evaluation, including clinical demographics, genetic testing, symptom evaluation, neurological exam, neuropsychological bedside testing, and socioemotional assessments. Ninety patients underwent structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging at their earliest evaluation at the memory clinic. From each patients’ structural imaging, the mean volumes of 18 regions of interest (ROI) comprising the functional networks specifically vulnerable in bvFTD, including the ‘salience network’ (SN), with key nodes in the frontoinsula and pregenual anterior cingulate, and the ‘semantic appraisal network’ (SAN) anchored in the anterior temporal lobe and subgenual cingulate, were estimated. Principal component and cluster analyses of ROI volumes were used to identify patient clusters with anatomically distinct atrophy patterns.
Main Outcome Measures
We evaluated brain morphology and other clinical features including presenting symptoms, neurologic exam signs, neuropsychological performance, rate of dementia progression, and socioemotional function in each patient cluster.
We identified four subgroups of bvFTD patients with distinct anatomic patterns of network degeneration, including two separate salience network–predominant subgroups: frontal/temporal (SN-FT), and frontal (SN-F), and a semantic appraisal network–predominant group (SAN), and a subcortical–predominant group. Subgroups demonstrated distinct patterns of cognitive, socioemotional, and motor symptoms, as well as genetic compositions and estimated rates of disease progression.
Divergent patterns of vulnerability in specific functional network components make an important contribution to clinical heterogeneity of bvFTD. The data-driven anatomical classification identifies biologically meaningful phenotypes and provides a replicable approach to disambiguate the bvFTD syndrome.
Patients with pathogenic truncating mutations in the prion gene (PRNP) usually present with prolonged disease courses with severe neurofibrillary tangle and cerebral amyloidosis pathology, but more atypical phenotypes also occur, including those with dysautonomia and peripheral neuropathy. We describe the neurological, cognitive, neuroimaging, and electrophysiological features of a 31-year-old man presenting with an orbitofrontal syndrome, gastrointestinal symptoms, and peripheral neuropathy associated with PRNP Q160X nonsense mutation, with symptom onset at age 27. The mutation was also detected in his asymptomatic father and a symptomatic paternal cousin; several members of prior generations died from early onset dementia. This is the first report of a family affected with the nonsense PRNP mutation Q160X displaying clear autosomal dominant disease in multiple family members and reduced penetrance. This case strengthens the evidence suggesting an association between PRNP truncating mutations and prion systemic amyloidosis. PRNP gene testing should be considered in any patient with atypical dementia, especially with early onset and neuropathy, even in the absence of a family history.
Amyloidosis; DNA sequencing; dysautonomia; exome; mutation; peripheral neuropathy; prion dementia
Conversational storytelling integrates diverse cognitive and socio-emotional abilities that critically differ across neurodegenerative disease groups and may have diagnostic relevance and predict anatomic changes. The present study employed mixed methods discourse and quantitative analyses to delineate patterns of storytelling across focal neurodegenerative disease groups, and to clarify the neuroanatomical contributions to common storytelling characteristics in these patients. Transcripts of spontaneous social interactions of 46 participants (15 behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), 7 semantic variant primary progressive aphasia (svPPA), 12 Alzheimer's disease (AD), and 12 healthy older normal controls) were analysed for storytelling characteristics and frequency, and videos of the interactions were rated for patients' social attentiveness. Compared to controls, svPPAs also told more stories and autobiographical stories, and perseverated on aspects of self during storytelling. ADs told fewer autobiographical stories than NCs, and svPPAs and bvFTDs failed to attend to social cues. Storytelling characteristics were associated with a processing speed and mental flexibility, and voxel-based anatomic analysis of structural magnetic resonance imaging revealed that temporal organization, evaluations, and social attention correlated with atrophy corresponding to known intrinsic connectivity networks, including the default mode, limbic, salience, and stable task control networks. Differences in spontaneous storytelling among neurodegenerative groups elucidated diverse cognitive, socio-emotional, and neural contributions to narrative production, with implications for diagnostic screening and therapeutic intervention.
Narrative; Autobiographical memory; Social functioning; Focal neurodegenerative disease; Neural Networks
To determine the prevalence of autoimmune disease in symptomatic C9ORF72 (C9) mutation carriers and frontotemporal dementia with motor neuron disease (FTD/MND) cohorts.
In this case-control study, we reviewed the clinical histories of 66 patients with FTD/MND and 57 symptomatic C9 carriers (24 overlapping cases), a total of 99 charts, for history of autoimmune disease. The prevalence of autoimmune disease in C9 and FTD/MND cohorts was determined by χ2 and Fisher exact comparisons between the combined C9 and FTD/MND group with normal control, Alzheimer disease, and progressive supranuclear palsy cohorts, as well as comparisons within C9 and FTD/MND cohorts.
Our combined C9 and FTD/MND cohort has a 12% prevalence of nonthyroid autoimmune disease. The prevalence of nonthyroid autoimmune disease in C9 and FTD/MND is similar to the rates in previously detailed progranulin and semantic variant primary progressive aphasia cohorts and elevated in comparison to previously collected normal control and typical Alzheimer disease cohorts, as well as a newly screened progressive supranuclear palsy cohort. Furthermore, the types of autoimmune disease in this combined C9 and FTD/MND cohort cluster within the same 3 categories previously described in progranulin and semantic variant primary progressive aphasia: inflammatory arthritides, cutaneous conditions, and gastrointestinal disorders.
The association between selective autoimmune disease and neurodegenerative disorders unified by the underlying pathology frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43–positive inclusions (FTLD-TDP) extends to C9 and FTD/MND cohorts, providing further evidence that select autoimmune inflammation may be intrinsically linked to FTLD-TDP pathophysiology.
Accurate diagnosis of behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) is important as patients’ behavioral symptoms have profound implications for their families and communities. Since the diagnosis of bvFTD derives from behavioral features, accurate identification of patients can be difficult for non-specialists. Concrete rates of diagnostic accuracy among non-specialists are unavailable.
To examine the accuracy of community clinicians’ diagnoses of bvFTD and to identify patient characteristics leading to misdiagnosis, we reviewed the charts and referral letters of 3,578 patients who were seen at our specialized center. Referral diagnosis and reasons, manifesting symptoms, demographic data, Mini-Mental State Examination score, Clinical Dementia Rating score and Neuropsychiatric Inventory score were extracted.
60% of patients assigned a single diagnosis of bvFTD by community clinicians did not have bvFTD according to specialists. Compared to specialist-confirmed bvFTD patients, false bvFTD patients were more likely to be depressed and to be non-Caucasian, showed less euphoria, apathy, disinhibition and abnormal eating behaviors, had milder disease severity and better overall cognition. bvFTD was mentioned by referring clinicians in 86% of specialist-confirmed bvFTD cases, but missed cases were called Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or Huntington’s disease, or progressive aphasia.
These results revealed a widespread lack of familiarity with core diagnostic symptoms among non-specialists and suggest that community clinicians require specialized diagnostic support before providing a definitive diagnosis of bvFTD.
Frontotemporal dementia; Misdiagnosis; Community clinicians; Diagnostic criteria
The ventroanterior insula is implicated in the experience, expression, and recognition of disgust; however, whether this brain region is required for recognizing disgust or regulating disgusting behaviors remains unknown.
We examined the brain correlates of the presence of disgusting behavior and impaired recognition of disgust using voxel-based morphometry in a sample of 305 patients with heterogeneous patterns of neurodegeneration. Permutation-based analyses were used to determine regions of decreased grey matter volume at a significance level p<0.05 corrected for family-wise error across the whole brain and within the insula.
Patients with behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) and semantic variant primary progressive aphasia (svPPA) were most likely to exhibit disgusting behaviors and were, on average, the most impaired at recognizing disgust in others. Imaging analysis revealed that patients who exhibited disgusting behaviors had significantly less grey matter volume bilaterally in the ventral anterior insula. A region of interest analysis restricted to bvFTD and svPPA patients alone confirmed this result. Moreover, impaired recognition of disgust was associated with decreased grey matter volume in the bilateral ventroanterior and ventral middle regions of the insula. There was an area of overlap in the bilateral anterior insula where decreased grey matter volume was associated with both the presence of disgusting behavior and impairments in recognizing disgust.
These findings suggest that regulating disgusting behaviors and recognizing disgust in others involve two partially overlapping neural systems within the insula. Moreover, the ventral anterior insula is required for both processes.
Frontotemporal dementia; Voxel-based morphometry; emotion recognition; insula; disgust; neurodegeneration
Deficits in recognizing others' emotions are reported in many psychiatric and neurological disorders, including autism, schizophrenia, behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) and Alzheimer's disease (AD). Most previous emotion recognition studies have required participants to identify emotional expressions in photographs. This type of assessment differs from real-world emotion recognition in important ways: Images are static rather than dynamic, include only 1 modality of emotional information (i.e., visual information), and are presented absent a social context. Additionally, existing emotion recognition batteries typically include multiple negative emotions, but only 1 positive emotion (i.e., happiness) and no self-conscious emotions (e.g., embarrassment). We present initial results using a new task for assessing emotion recognition that was developed to address these limitations. In this task, respondents view a series of short film clips and are asked to identify the main characters' emotions. The task assesses multiple negative, positive, and self-conscious emotions based on information that is multimodal, dynamic, and socially embedded. We evaluate this approach in a sample of patients with bvFTD, AD, and normal controls. Results indicate that patients with bvFTD have emotion recognition deficits in all 3 categories of emotion compared to the other groups. These deficits were especially pronounced for negative and self-conscious emotions. Emotion recognition in this sample of patients with AD was indistinguishable from controls. These findings underscore the utility of this approach to assessing emotion recognition and suggest that previous findings that recognition of positive emotion was preserved in dementia patients may have resulted from the limited sampling of positive emotion in traditional tests.
empathy; emotion recognition; dementia; neurodegeneration; self-conscious emotion
The Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS) and the Behavioral Activation System (BAS) have been theorized as neural systems that regulate approach/withdrawal behaviors. Behavioral activation/inhibition balance may change in neurodegenerative disease based on underlying alterations in systems supporting motivation and approach/withdrawal behaviors, which may in turn be reflected in neuropsychiatric symptoms.
A total of 187 participants (31 patients diagnosed with behavioral variant of FTD [bvFTD], 13 semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia [svPPA], 14 right temporal variant FTD [rtFTD], 54 Alzheimer’s disease [AD], and 75 older healthy controls [NCs]) were included in this study. Changes in behavioral inhibition/activation were measured using the BIS/BAS scale. We analyzed the correlation between regional atrophy pattern and BIS/BAS score, using voxel-based morphometry (VBM).
ADs had significantly higher BIS scores than bvFTDs and NCs. bvFTDs activation-reward response (BAS-RR) was significantly lower than ADs and NCs, though their activation-drive (BAS-D) was significantly higher than in ADs. Both AD and rtFTD patients had abnormally low activation fun-seeking (BAS-FS) scores. BIS score correlated positively with right anterior cingulate and middle frontal gyrus volume, as well as volume in the right precentral gyrus and left insula/operculum.
AD, bvFTD, and rtFTD patients show divergent patterns of change in approach/withdrawal reactivity. High BIS scores correlated with preservation of right-predominant structures involved in task control and self-protective avoidance of potentially negative reinforcers. Damage to these regions in bvFTD may create a punishment insensitivity that underlies patients’ lack of self-consciousness in social contexts.
Alzheimer’s disease; behavior inhibition; dementia; frontotemporal dementia; neurodegeneration; social concern; voxel-based morphometry
Patients with neurodegenerative diseases often overestimate their functional capacities. Using structural MRI, Shany-Ur et al. examine the neuroanatomical correlates of impaired self-awareness. Overestimation of functioning correlates with degeneration of dorsal frontal regions involved in attention, as well as orbitofrontal and subcortical regions that may assign reward value to self-related knowledge.
Accurate self-awareness is essential for adapting one’s tasks and goals to one’s actual abilities. Patients with neurodegenerative diseases, particularly those with right frontal involvement, often present with poor self-awareness of their functional limitations that may exacerbate their already jeopardized decision-making and behaviour. We studied the structural neuroanatomical basis for impaired self-awareness among patients with neurodegenerative disease and healthy older adults. One hundred and twenty-four participants (78 patients with neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia, right-temporal frontotemporal dementia, semantic variant and non-fluent variant primary progressive aphasia, and 46 healthy controls) described themselves on the Patient Competency Rating Scale, rating observable functioning across four domains (daily living activities, cognitive, emotional control, interpersonal). All participants underwent structural magnetic resonance imaging. Informants also described subjects’ functioning on the same scale. Self-awareness was measured by comparing self and informant ratings. Group differences in discrepancy scores were analysed using general linear models, controlling for age, sex and disease severity. Compared with controls, patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia overestimated their functioning in all domains, patients with Alzheimer’s disease overestimated cognitive and emotional functioning, patients with right-temporal frontotemporal dementia overestimated interpersonal functioning, and patients with non-fluent aphasia overestimated emotional and interpersonal functioning. Patients with semantic variant aphasia did not overestimate functioning on any domain. To examine the neuroanatomic correlates of impaired self-awareness, discrepancy scores were correlated with brain volume using voxel-based morphometry. To identify the unique neural correlates of overlooking versus exaggerating deficits, overestimation and underestimation scores were analysed separately, controlling for age, sex, total intracranial volume and extent of actual functional decline. Atrophy related to overestimating one’s functioning included bilateral, right greater than left frontal and subcortical regions, including dorsal superior and middle frontal gyri, lateral and medial orbitofrontal gyri, right anterior insula, putamen, thalamus, and caudate, and midbrain and pons. Thus, our patients’ tendency to under-represent their functional decline was related to degeneration of domain-general dorsal frontal regions involved in attention, as well as orbitofrontal and subcortical regions likely involved in assigning a reward value to self-related processing and maintaining accurate self-knowledge. The anatomic correlates of underestimation (right rostral anterior cingulate cortex, uncorrected significance level) were distinct from overestimation and had a substantially smaller effect size. This suggests that underestimation or ‘tarnishing’ may be influenced by non-structural neurobiological and sociocultural factors, and should not be considered to be on a continuum with overestimation or ‘polishing’ of functional capacity, which appears to be more directly mediated by neural circuit dysfunction.
ageing; awareness; neurodegenerative diseases; attention; voxel based morphometry
Neurodegenerative diseases can cause dysfunction of neural structures involved in judgment, executive function, emotional processing, sexual behavior, violence, and self-awareness. Such dysfunctions can lead to antisocial and criminal behavior that appears for the first time in the adult or middle-aged individual or even later in life.
To investigate the frequency and type of criminal behavior among patients with a diagnosed dementing disorder.
Design, Setting, and Participants
We conducted a retrospective medical record review of 2397 patients who were seen at the University of California, San Francisco, Memory and Aging Center between 1999 and 2012, including 545 patients with Alzheimer disease (AD), 171 patients with behavioral variant of frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), 89 patients with semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia, and 30 patients with Huntington disease. Patient notes containing specific keywords denoting criminal behavior were reviewed. Data were stratified by criminal behavior type and diagnostic groups.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Frequencies of criminal behavior and χ2 statistics were calculated.
Of the 2397 patients studied, 204 (8.5%) had a history of criminal behavior that emerged during their illness. Of the major diagnostic groups, 42 of 545 patients (7.7%) with AD, 64 of 171 patients (37.4%) with bvFTD, 24 of 89 patients (27.0%) with semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia, and 6 of 30 patients (20%) with Huntington disease exhibited criminal behavior. A total of 14% of patients with bvFTD were statistically significantly more likely to present with criminal behavior compared with 2% of patients with AD (P < .001) and 6.4% were statistically significantly more likely to exhibit violence compared with 2% of patients with AD (P = .003). Common manifestations of criminal behavior in the bvFTD group included theft, traffic violations, sexual advances, trespassing, and public urination in contrast with those in the AD group, who commonly committed traffic violations, often related to cognitive impairment.
Conclusions and Relevance
Criminal behavior is more common in patients with bvFTD and semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia than in those with AD and is more likely to be an early manifestation of the disorder. Judicial evaluations of criminality in the demented individual might require different criteria than the classic “insanity defense” used in the American legal system; these individuals should be treated differently by the law. The appearance of new-onset criminal behavior in an adult should elicit a search for frontal and anterior temporal brain disease and for dementing disorders.
Patients with neurodegenerative disease show distinct patterns of personality change, some of which may be traced to focal neurologic damage, while others may be mediated by cultural reactions to functional impairment. While such changes are early and pervasive in behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), and milder changes are seen in Alzheimer’s (AD), no study has examined all Big 5 factors of personality in mild cognitive impairment (MCI) patients. Also, the influence of culture and ethnicity on disease-related personality changes has seldom been examined. Premorbid and current personality were measured in 47 Greek patients with bvFTD, AD, and MCI according to informant reports using the TPQue5, a 5-factor inventory in the Greek language and accounting for Greek cultural factors. bvFTDs showed greater decreases in conscientiousness than ADs and MCIs. ADs and MCIs showed increased neuroticism, while the bvFTD patients were rated as having become much less neurotic in the course of their disease. The pattern of personality change in MCIs was very similar to that of ADs, supporting recent evidence that personality changes occur as early as the MCI disease stage. In all groups, personality changes were similar to those previously described in non-Mediterranean cultures, supporting the hypothesis that they may result directly from disease-specific neurologic processes.
personality; frontotemporal dementia; Alzheimer’s disease; mild cognitive impairment; Big Five
Comprehension of insincere communication is an important aspect of social cognition requiring visual perspective taking, emotion reading, and understanding others’ thoughts, opinions, and intentions. Someone who is lying intends to hide their insincerity from the listener, while a sarcastic speaker wants the listener to recognize they are speaking insincerely. We investigated whether face-to-face testing of comprehending insincere communication would effectively discriminate among neurodegenerative disease patients with different patterns of real-life social deficits. We examined ability to comprehend lies and sarcasm from a third-person perspective, using contextual cues, in 102 patients with one of four neurodegenerative diseases (frontotemporal dementia [bvFTD], Alzheimer’s disease [AD], progressive supranuclear palsy [PSP], and vascular cognitive impairment) and 77 healthy older adults (NC). Participants answered questions about videos depicting social interactions involving deceptive, sarcastic, or sincere speech using The Awareness of Social Inference Test. All subjects equally understood sincere remarks, but bvFTD patients displayed impaired comprehension of lies and sarcasm compared with NCs. In other groups, impairment was not disease-specific but was proportionate to general cognitive impairment. Analysis of the task components revealed that only bvFTD patients were impaired on perspective taking and emotion reading elements and that both bvFTD and PSP patients had impaired ability to represent others’ opinions and intentions (i.e., theory of mind). Test performance correlated with informants’ ratings of subjects’ empathy, perspective taking and neuropsychiatric symptoms in everyday life. Comprehending insincere communication is complex and requires multiple cognitive and emotional processes vulnerable across neurodegenerative diseases. However, bvFTD patients show uniquely focal and severe impairments at every level of theory of mind and emotion reading, leading to an inability to identify obvious examples of deception and sarcasm. This is consistent with studies suggesting this disease targets a specific neural network necessary for perceiving social salience and predicting negative social outcomes.
social cognition; neurodegenerative disease; frontotemporal dementia; lies; sarcasm; theory of mind
Purpose of review
Neurodegenerative diseases often cause focal damage to brain structures mediating social cognition and personality, resulting in altered interpersonal communication and behavior. We review recent research describing this phenomenon in various aspects of social cognition.
Corresponding to their pervasive social-emotional deficits, patients with frontotemporal dementia perform poorly on lab-based tasks including recognizing emotions, attending to salient information that guides social behavior, representing social knowledge, comprehending others’ mental states, and maintaining insight to their own difficulties. Together with poor executive and regulation mechanisms, these social cognition deficits ultimately impact behavior. Patients with logopenic and nonfluent primary progressive aphasia have some deficits recognizing emotional prosody, while those with the semantic variant show more widespread deficits in social comprehension. While Alzheimer’s disease patients perform poorly on some social cognition tasks, this typically reflects general cognitive impairment, and their real-life social functioning is less affected than in diseases targeting frontotemporal structures. Studies in motor diseases such as Parkinson’s suggest some degradation of emotion recognition and social comprehension which should be investigated further.
We summarize recent findings concerning perception and evaluation of socioemotional information, social knowledge storage and access, advanced information processing mechanisms, and behavioral response selection and regulation across various neurodegenerative diseases.
Neurodegenerative diseases; dementia; frontotemporal; social cognition; personality
In 2009, inclusions containing the fused in sarcoma (FUS) protein were identified as a third major molecular class of pathology underlying the behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) syndrome. Due to the low prevalence of FUS pathology, few clinical descriptions have been published and none provides information about specific social-emotional deficits despite evidence for severe behavioral manifestations in this disorder. We evaluated a patient with bvFTD due to FUS pathology using a comprehensive battery of cognitive and social-emotional tests. A structural MRI scan and genetic tests for tau, progranulin, and FUS mutations were also performed. The patient showed preserved general cognitive functioning and superior working memory, but severe deficits in emotion attribution, sensitivity to punishment, and the capacity for interpersonal warmth and empathy. The gray matter atrophy pattern corresponded to this focal deficit profile, with preservation of dorsolateral fronto-parietal regions associated with executive functioning but severe damage to right worse than left frontoinsula, temporal pole, subgenual anterior cingulate, medial orbitofrontal cortex, amygdala, and caudate. This patient demonstrates the striking focality associated with FUS neuropathology in patients with bvFTD.
behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia; FTLD-FUS; social emotional testing; voxel-based morphometry; FUS neuropathology
Changes in personality differ qualitatively and quantitatively between patients with different neurodegenerative diseases, likely due to divergent patterns of regional neurodegeneration. Regional damage to circuits underlying various cognitive and emotional functions have been associated with interpersonal traits like dominance, extraversion, and warmth in patients with neurodegenerative diseases, suggesting that personality may in part be mediated by these more basic neuropsychological functions. In this study, we hypothesized that different combinations of cognitive, neuropsychiatric, and emotional measures would predict different interpersonal traits in patients with neurodegenerative diseases.
A battery of cognitive, neuropsychiatric, and emotional measures was administered to 286 patients with various neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia, semantic dementia, and progressive supranuclear palsy, and informants described patients’ dominance, extraversion, and warmth using the Interpersonal Adjective Scales (IAS) personality questionnaire. Regression modeling was performed to identify which neuropsychological factors uniquely predicted current personality, controlling for age, gender, and premorbid personality.
Social dominance covaried with patients’ capacity for cognitive control and verbal fluency. Conversely, warmth did not rely on these executive or verbal skills, but covaried primarily with patients’ capacity for emotional responsiveness. Extraversion, representing a blend of dominance and warmth, demonstrated an intermediate degree of relationship to both executive/verbal and emotional functions.
These findings suggest that different personality traits are partly subserved by specific cognitive and emotional functions in neurodegenerative disease patients. While this study was performed in the context of brain damage, the results raise the question of whether individual differences in these neuropsychological abilities may also underlie variability in normal personality.
personality; neurodegenerative disease; cognition; emotion
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
Different degenerative brain diseases result in distinct personality changes as a result of divergent patterns of brain damage, however, little is known about the natural history of these personality changes throughout the course of each disease.
To investigate how interpersonal traits change as a function of degenerative brain disease type and severity.
Using the Interpersonal Adjective Scales, informant ratings of retrospective premorbid and current scores for dominance, extraversion, warmth, and ingenuousness were collected annually for one to four years on 188 patients [67 behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), 40 semantic dementia (SemD), 81 Alzheimer’s disease (AD)] and 65 older healthy controls. Using random coefficient models, interpersonal behaviour scores at very mild, mild, or moderate-to-severe disease stages were compared within and between patient groups.
Group-level changes from premorbid personality occurred as a function of disease type and severity, and were apparent even at a very mild disease stage (Clinical Dementia Rating=0.5) for all three diseases. Decreases in interpersonal traits associated with emotional affiliation (i.e., extraversion, warmth, and ingenuousness) and more rigid interpersonal behaviour differentiated bvFTD and SemD patients from AD patients.
Specific changes in affiliative interpersonal traits differentiate degenerative brain diseases even at a very mild disease stage, and patterns of personality change differ across bvFTD, SemD, and AD with advancing disease. This study describes the typical progression of change of interpersonal traits in each disease, improving the ability of clinicians and caregivers to predict and plan for symptom progression.
neurodegenerative diseases; dementia; personality; affiliation; mixed effects model
The serotonin transporter length polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) short allele (5-HTTLPR-s) has been associated with differential susceptibility for anxiety and depression in multiple psychiatric disorders. 5-HTTLPR-s modifies the serotonergic systems that support emotion and behavioral regulation by reducing gene expression, which slows the reuptake of serotonin, and is associated with distinct morphological and functional effects. Serotonergic systems are also shown to be dysfunctional in behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), a disease characterized by marked socioemotional dysfunction. However, studies of 5-HTTLPR-s effects in bvFTD have been inconsistent. Our objective was to investigate the patterns of gray matter volume by 5-HTTLPR-s genotype in both healthy older controls and bvFTD patients. We performed voxel-based morphometry of 179 cognitively normal older adults and 24 bvFTD cases to determine brain changes associated with dose (0/1/2) of 5-HTTLPR-s allele. 5-HTTLPR-s frequency did not differ between controls and bvFTD. We found a significant interaction effect whereby carrying more 5-HTTLPR-s alleles in bvFTD was associated with smaller volume in left inferior frontal gyrus (T = 4.86, PFWE = 0.03) and larger volume in right temporal lobe (T = 5.01, PFWE = 0.01). These results suggest that the 5-HTTLPR-s allele differentially influences brain morphology in bvFTD. We propose that patients with bvFTD and 5-HTTLPR-s have altered volumes in regions that support socioemotional behavior, which may be a developmental or disease-related compensation for altered serotonergic activity.
•5-HTTLPR-s correlates with greater right medial temporal lobe (R MTL) volume in FTD.•5-HTTLPR-s correlates with lower left inferior frontal gyrus (L IFG) volume in FTD.•R MTL and L IFG volumes are associated with neuropsychiatric symptom severity.•5-HTTLPR-s effects on R MTL and L IFG volumes occur independently of disease severity.
Serotonin transporter gene; Frontotemporal dementia; Structural MRI; Emotion; Amygdala; Neurodegeneration
Executive functioning is widely targeted when human cognition is assessed, but there is little consensus on how it should be operationalized and measured. Recognizing the difficulties associated with establishing standard operational definitions of executive functioning, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke entered into a contract with the University of California-San Francisco to develop psychometrically robust executive measurement tools that would be accepted by the neurology clinical trials and clinical research communities. This effort, entitled Executive Abilities: Measures and Instruments for Neurobehavioral Evaluation and Research (EXAMINER), resulted in a series of tasks targeting working memory, inhibition, set shifting, fluency, insight, planning, social cognition and behavior. We describe battery conceptualization and development, data collection, scale construction based on item response theory, and lay the foundation for studying the battery’s utility and validity for specific assessment and research goals.
working memory; cognitive control; fluency; planning; social cognition; item response theory
While sarcasm can be conveyed solely through contextual cues such as counterfactual or echoic statements, face-to-face sarcastic speech may be characterized by specific paralinguistic features that alert the listener to interpret the utterance as ironic or critical, even in the absence of contextual information. We investigated the neuroanatomy underlying failure to understand sarcasm from dynamic vocal and facial paralinguistic cues. Ninety subjects (20 frontotemporal dementia, 11 semantic dementia [SemD], 4 progressive nonfluent aphasia, 27 Alzheimer’s disease, 6 corticobasal degeneration, 9 progressive supranuclear palsy, 13 healthy older controls) were tested using the Social Inference – Minimal subtest of The Awareness of Social Inference Test (TASIT). Subjects watched brief videos depicting sincere or sarcastic communication and answered yes-no questions about the speaker’s intended meaning. All groups interpreted Sincere (SIN) items normally, and only the SemD group was impaired on the Simple Sarcasm (SSR) condition. Patients failing the SSR performed more poorly on dynamic emotion recognition tasks and had more neuropsychiatric disturbances, but had better verbal and visuospatial working memory than patients who comprehended sarcasm. Voxel-based morphometry analysis of SSR scores in SPM5 demonstrated that poorer sarcasm comprehension was predicted by smaller volume in bilateral posterior parahippocampii (PHc), temporal poles, and R medial frontal pole (pFWE<0.05). This study provides lesion data suggesting that the PHc may be involved in recognizing a paralinguistic speech profile as abnormal, leading to interpretive processing by the temporal poles and right medial frontal pole that identifies the social context as sarcastic, and recognizes the speaker’s paradoxical intentions.
Patients with presenting with left-sided FTLD syndromes sometimes develop a new preoccupation with art, greater attention to visual stimuli, and increased visual creativity. We describe the case of a 53-year-old, right-handed man with a history of bipolar disorder who presented with language and behavior impairments characteristic of FTLD, then developed motor symptoms consistent with a second diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Though the patient had never created visual art before, he developed a compulsion for painting beginning at the earliest stages of his disease, and continued producing art daily until he could no longer lift a paintbrush because of his motor deficits. Upon autopsy, he was found to have ubiquitin and TDP43-positive inclusions with MND pathology. This case study details the patient’s longitudinal neuropsychological, emotional, behavioral, and motor symptoms, along with structural imaging, neurologic, and neuropathologic findings. Multiple examples of the patient’s art are depicted throughout all stages of his illness, and the possible cognitive, behavioral, and neurologic correlates of his new-onset visual artistry are discussed.
frontotemporal lobar degeneration; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; art; emotion; social behavior
Several functional and structural imaging studies have investigated the neural basis of personality in healthy adults, but human lesions studies are scarce. Personality changes are a common symptom in patients with neurodegenerative diseases like frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and semantic dementia (SD), allowing a unique window into the neural basis of personality. In this study, we used the Interpersonal Adjective Scales to investigate the structural basis of eight interpersonal traits (dominance, arrogance, coldness, introversion, submissiveness, ingenuousness, warmth, and extraversion) in 257 subjects: 214 patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as FTD, SD, progressive non-fluent aphasia, Alzheimer’s disease, amnestic mild cognitive impairment, corticobasal degeneration, and progressive supranuclear palsy and 43 healthy elderly people. Measures of interpersonal traits were correlated with regional atrophy pattern using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analysis of structural MR images. Interpersonal traits mapped onto distinct brain regions depending on the degree to which they involved agency and affiliation. Interpersonal traits high in agency related to left dorsolateral prefrontal and left lateral frontopolar regions, whereas interpersonal traits high in affiliation related to right ventromedial prefrontal and right anteromedial temporal regions. Consistent with the existing literature on neural networks underlying social cognition, these results indicate that brain regions related to externally-focused, executive control-related processes underlie agentic interpersonal traits such as dominance, whereas brain regions related to internally-focused, emotion- and reward-related processes underlie affiliative interpersonal traits such as warmth. In addition, these findings indicate that interpersonal traits are subserved by complex neural networks rather than discrete anatomic areas.
neurodegenerative disease; personality; affiliation; agency; voxel-based morphometry
Changes in social behavior are often the first symptoms of neurodegenerative disease. Patients with frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) often go undiagnosed, or are misclassified as psychiatric patients, because in the absence of cognitive deficits, non-experts fail to recognize these social changes as dementia symptoms. The object of this study was to improve screening for behavioral dementia in primary care and mental health settings by quantifying spontaneous social behaviors specific to FTLD.
In a university hospital dementia clinic, examiners blind to subject diagnosis performed one hour of cognitive testing, then completed the Interpersonal Measure of Psychopathy (IMP), an 18-item checklist of observed inappropriate behaviors. Patients then underwent a multidisciplinary evaluation to derive a neurodegenerative or psychiatric diagnosis. Data were collected from 288 subjects: 45 Alzheimer's disease (AD), 40 frontotemporal dementia (FTD), 21 semantic dementia (SD), 13 progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA), 14 corticobasal degeneration (CBD), 21 progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), 37 dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), 16 vascular dementia, 29 mixed vascular and AD, 35 primary psychiatric disorders, and 17 normal older controls.
Statistical item analyses demonstrated specific patterns of social behavior that differentiated both FTD and SD patients from 1) non-dementing older adults, 2) non-dementing individuals with psychiatric conditions, 3) individuals with cerebrovascular disease, and 4) individuals with other neurodegenerative disorders. SDs verbally and physically interrupted evaluations, spoke perseveratively and tangentially and resisted clinician redirection. FTDs were apathetic or disinhibited and were unconcerned about meeting clinician expectations.
Specific, abnormal interpersonal behaviors can alert non-experts to the need for specialized dementia referral.
Efforts to characterize changes in social functioning in frontotemporal dementia (FTD) have failed to elicit clear dissociation between frontal and temporal variants of the disease based on behavioral measures.
This study obtained premorbid and current first-degree relative ratings using an established measure of interpersonal functioning, the Interpersonal Adjectives Scales, to measure personality change in 16 patients with frontal variant (FLV) and 13 with temporal variant (TLV) FTD, and in a control group of 16 patients with AD.
All three groups showed significant change over time in multiple domains, including increased introversion (FG) and submissiveness (HI). However, patients with both FTD subtypes evidenced significantly greater increases in overall interpersonal pathology vector length [VL] than did patients with AD, who remained within the normal range on all scores. Patients with FLV showed a 2 SD increase in submissiveness (HI), but their cold-heartedness (DE) change scores were not significantly different from those of patients with AD. Conversely, the TLV cold-heartedness (DE) score increased 2 SD compared to minimal change for the AD and FLV groups, yet change in submissiveness (HI) did not differentiate between AD and TLV groups.
The Interpersonal Adjectives Scales differentiated both FTD groups from patients with AD on the basis of both degree and direction of personality change. Also, the two subtypes of FTD showed distinctly different patterns of change in social functioning: patients with temporal variant shifted toward severe interpersonal coldness with mild loss of dominance, whereas patients with frontal variant showed the opposite pattern.
To characterize dementia-induced changes in visual art production.
While case studies show altered visual artistic production in some patients with neurodegenerative disease, no case-controlled studies have quantified this phenomenon across groups of patients.
Forty-nine subjects [18 Alzheimer’s disease (AD), 9 Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), 9 Semantic Dementia (SD), 15 healthy older controls (NC)] underwent formal neuropsychological testing of visuospatial, perceptual, and creative functioning, and produced four drawings. Subjective elements of drawings were rated by an expert panel that was blind to diagnosis.
Despite equal performance on standard visuospatial tests, dementia groups produced distinct patterns of artistic features that were significantly different from NCs. FTDs used more disordered composition and less active mark-making (p<0.05). Both FTDs and SDs drawings were rated as more bizarre and demonstrated more facial distortion than NCs (p<0.05). Also, SDs drastically failed a standardized test of divergent creativity. ADs artwork was more similar to controls than to FTDs or SDs, but showed a more muted color palette (p<0.05) and trends toward including fewer details, less ordered compositions, and occasional facial distortion.
These group differences in artistic style likely resulted from disease-specific focal neurodegeneration, and elucidate the contributions of particular brain regions to the production of visual art.
frontotemporal lobar degeneration; dementia; visual art; creativity