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 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
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
Empathy is a complex social behaviour mediated by a network of brain structures. Recently, several functional imaging studies have investigated the neural basis of empathy, but few corroborative human lesion studies exist. Severe empathy loss is a common feature of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), and is also seen in other neurodegenerative diseases. In this study, the neuroanatomic basis of empathy was investigated in 123 patients with FTLD, Alzheimer's disease, corticobasal degeneration and progressive supranuclear palsy using the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI). IRI Empathic Concern and Perspective taking scores were correlated with structural MRI brain volume using voxel-based morphometry. Voxels in the right temporal pole, the right fusiform gyrus, the right caudate and right subcallosal gyrus correlated significantly with total empathy score (P < 0.05 after whole-brain correction for multiple comparisons). Empathy score correlated positively with the volume of right temporal structures in semantic dementia, and with subcallosal gyrus volume in frontotemporal dementia. These findings are consistent with previous research suggesting that a primarily right frontotemporal network of brain regions is involved in emotion processing, and highlights the roles of the right temporal pole and inferior frontal/striatal regions in regulating complex social interactions. This is the first large-scale lesion study to investigate the neural basis of empathy using correlational analytic methods. The results suggest that the right anterior temporal and medial frontal regions are essential for real-life empathic behaviour.
dementia; empathy; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; temporal pole; VBM
Recent investigations of the neuroanatomy of complex social behaviors suggest that the underlying brain circuits involve multiple cortical and subcortical structures. The neuroanatomic origins of agreeableness have not yet been clearly elucidated. However, frontotemporal dementia (FTD) patients can evidence dramatic alterations in agreeableness arising from frontal and temporal lobe damage. Based on previous research, we hypothesized that agreeableness would be negatively correlated with left medial orbitofrontal cortex size and positively correlated with right amygdala volume. First-degree relatives of 27 FTD patients (diagnosed according to the Lund-Manchester criteria) were asked to fill out the NEO-Five Factor Inventory to assess the patients’ current level of agreeableness, a construct comprised of the facets trust, straightforwardness, altruism, compliance, modesty, and tender-mindedness. These patients underwent T1-weighted MRI imaging, and gray matter volumes for right and left orbitofrontal lobes and amygdalas were derived via segmentation and region of interest tracing, normalizing for total intracranial volume. Regression analysis revealed that 38% of the variance in the NEO agreeableness score was predicted by a model in which right orbitofrontal volume (β = 0.731) was positively correlated with agreeableness, and left orbitofrontal lobe volume (β = −0.638) was negatively correlated with agreeableness (p < 0.01). Contrary to our hypothesis, amygdala volume did not significantly predict agreeableness. This finding partly replicates a previous study that used a different measure of social functioning, the Interpersonal Adjective Scale, to delineate a left frontal-right amygdala circuit for agreeableness. These data support the hypothesis that regulation of agreeableness arises from a balanced, mutually inhibitory circuit involving both hemispheres.
Frontotemporal dementia; Orbitofrontal cortex; Agreeableness; Social behavior; Personality
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
Based on the recent literature and collective experience, an international consortium developed revised guidelines for the diagnosis of behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia. The validation process retrospectively reviewed clinical records and compared the sensitivity of proposed and earlier criteria in a multi-site sample of patients with pathologically verified frontotemporal lobar degeneration. According to the revised criteria, ‘possible’ behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia requires three of six clinically discriminating features (disinhibition, apathy/inertia, loss of sympathy/empathy, perseverative/compulsive behaviours, hyperorality and dysexecutive neuropsychological profile). ‘Probable’ behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia adds functional disability and characteristic neuroimaging, while behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia ‘with definite frontotemporal lobar degeneration’ requires histopathological confirmation or a pathogenic mutation. Sixteen brain banks contributed cases meeting histopathological criteria for frontotemporal lobar degeneration and a clinical diagnosis of behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies or vascular dementia at presentation. Cases with predominant primary progressive aphasia or extra-pyramidal syndromes were excluded. In these autopsy-confirmed cases, an experienced neurologist or psychiatrist ascertained clinical features necessary for making a diagnosis according to previous and proposed criteria at presentation. Of 137 cases where features were available for both proposed and previously established criteria, 118 (86%) met ‘possible’ criteria, and 104 (76%) met criteria for ‘probable’ behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia. In contrast, 72 cases (53%) met previously established criteria for the syndrome (P < 0.001 for comparison with ‘possible’ and ‘probable’ criteria). Patients who failed to meet revised criteria were significantly older and most had atypical presentations with marked memory impairment. In conclusion, the revised criteria for behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia improve diagnostic accuracy compared with previously established criteria in a sample with known frontotemporal lobar degeneration. Greater sensitivity of the proposed criteria may reflect the optimized diagnostic features, less restrictive exclusion features and a flexible structure that accommodates different initial clinical presentations. Future studies will be needed to establish the reliability and specificity of these revised diagnostic guidelines.
behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia; diagnostic criteria; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; FTD; pathology
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
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.
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
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 dementia (FTD) is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by progressive behavioural abnormalities and frontotemporal atrophy. Here we used tensor based morphometry (TBM) to identify regions of longitudinal progression of gray matter atrophy in FTD compared to controls. T1-weighted MRI images were acquired at presentation and 1-year follow-up from 12 patients with mild to moderate FTD and 12 healthy controls. Using TBM as implemented in SPM2, a voxel-wise estimation of regional tissue volume change was derived from the deformation field required to warp a subject’s late to early anatomical images. A whole brain analysis was performed, in which a level of significance of p<0.05 corrected for multiple comparisons (family wise error-FWE) was accepted. Based on prior studies, a region of interest (ROI) analysis was also performed, including in the search area bilateral medial and orbital frontal regions, anterior cingulate gyrus, insula, amygdala and hippocampus. Within this ROI a level of significance of p<0.001 uncorrected was accepted. In the whole brain analysis, the anterior cingulate/paracingulate gyri were the only regions that showed significant atrophy change over 1 year. In the ROI analysis, the left ventro-medial frontal cortex, right medial superior frontal gyrus, anterior insulae and left amygdala/hippocampus showed significant longitudinal changes. In conclusion, limbic and paralimbic regions showed detectable gray matter contraction over 1 year in FTD, confirming the susceptibility of these regions to the disease and the consistency with their putative role in causing typical presenting behaviours. These results suggest that TBM might be useful in tracking progression of regional atrophy in FTD.
We performed a comprehensive cognitive, neuroimaging, and genetic study of 31 patients with primary progressive aphasia (PPA), a decline in language functions that remains isolated for at least 2 years. Detailed speech and language evaluation was used to identify three different clinical variants: nonfluent progressive aphasia (NFPA; n = 11), semantic dementia (SD; n = 10), and a third variant termed logopenic progressive aphasia (LPA; n = 10). Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) on MRIs showed that, when all 31 PPA patients were analyzed together, the left perisylvian region and the anterior temporal lobes were atrophied. However, when each clinical variant was considered separately, distinctive patterns emerged: (1) NFPA, characterized by apraxia of speech and deficits in processing complex syntax, was associated with left inferior frontal and insular atrophy; (2) SD, characterized by fluent speech and semantic memory deficits, was associated with anterior temporal damage; and (3) LPA, characterized by slow speech and impaired syntactic comprehension and naming, showed atrophy in the left posterior temporal cortex and inferior parietal lobule. Apolipoprotein E ε4 haplotype frequency was 20% in NFPA, 0% in SD, and 67% in LPA. Cognitive, genetic, and anatomical features indicate that different PPA clinical variants may correspond to different underlying pathological processes.
Recent clinical and pathological studies have suggested that frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and corticobasal syndrome (CBS) show clinical and pathological overlap. We present four years of longitudinal clinical, cognitive and anatomical data in the case of a 56-year-old woman, AS, whose clinical picture evolved from FTLD to CBS. For the first three years, AS showed a progressive speech and language disorder compatible with a diagnosis of the nonfluent aphasia variant of FTLD. At year four, 10 years after her first symptom, AS developed the classical clinical signs of CBS, including alien limb phenomenon and dystonia. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) applied to AS’s four annual scans showed progression of atrophy from the inferior posterior frontal gyrus, to the left insula and finally to the medial frontal lobe. This case demonstrates the clinical overlap between FTLD and CBS and shows that the two can appear in the same patient at different stages of the disease in relation to the progression of anatomical damage.
To describe the phenotype of patients with C9FTD/ALS (C9ORF72) hexanucleotide repeat expansion.
A total of 648 patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD)–related clinical diagnoses and Alzheimer disease (AD) dementia were tested for C9ORF72 expansion and 31 carried expanded repeats (C9+). Clinical and neuroimaging data were compared between C9+ (15 behavioral variant FTD [bvFTD], 11 FTD–motor neuron disease [MND], 5 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis [ALS]) and sporadic noncarriers (48 bvFTD, 19 FTD-MND, 6 ALS).
All C9+ patients displayed clinical syndromes of bvFTD, ALS, or FTD-MND. At first evaluation, C9+ bvFTD patients had more delusions and greater impairment of working memory, but milder eating dysregulation compared to bvFTD noncarriers. C9+FTD-MND patients had a trend for longer survival and had an earlier age at onset than FTD-MND noncarriers. Voxel-based morphometry demonstrated more thalamic atrophy in FTD and FTD-MND carriers than in noncarriers.
Patients with the C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansion develop bvFTD, ALS, or FTD-MND with similar clinical and imaging features to sporadic cases. Other FTD spectrum diagnoses and AD dementia appear rare or absent among C9+ individuals. Longer survival in C9+ FTD-MND suggests slower disease progression and thalamic atrophy represents a novel and unexpected feature.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a growth factor implicated in neuronal survival. Studies have reported altered BDNF serum concentrations in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, these studies have been inconsistent. Few studies have investigated BDNF concentrations across multiple neurodegenerative diseases, and no studies have investigated BDNF concentrations in patients with frontotemporal dementia. To examine BDNF concentrations in different neurodegenerative diseases, we measured serum concentrations of BDNF using enzyme-linked immunoassay in subjects with behavioral-variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD, n=20), semantic dementia (SemD, n=16), AD (n=34), and mild cognitive impairment (MCI, n=30), as well as healthy older subjects (HS, n=38). BDNF serum concentrations were compared across diagnoses and correlated with cognitive tests and patterns of brain atrophy using voxel-based morphometry. We found small negative correlations between BDNF serum concentrations and some of the cognitive tests assessing learning, information processing speed and cognitive control in complex situationshowever, BDNF did not predict disease group membership despite adequate power. These findings suggest that BDNF serum concentration may not be a reliable diagnostic biomarker to distinguish among neurodegenerative diseases.
Alzheimer’s disease; BDNF; frontotemporal dementia; mild cognitive impairment; neurotrophin; VBM
Patients with early onset neurodegenerative disease can present with a clinical syndrome that overlaps with schizophrenia, and it is not uncommon for these patients to undergo long-term care in psychiatric settings rather than receiving more appropriate care by neurologists specializing in their disease.
A 35-year old woman who presented with new-onset delusions, eating abnormalities, disorganized behavior, lack of insight, disinhibition, and stereotypical motor behaviors was diagnosed with schizophrenia and institutionalized. Later she was found to have a MAPT tau S356T mutation and a focal pattern of brain atrophy consistent with frontotemporal dementia (FTD).
Physicians should be aware of the potential overlap in symptoms and age of onset between some forms of FTD and schizophrenia, and should include FTD in the diagnostic differential for adult patients with new onset, rapidly progressive personality changes or behavioral symptoms such as binge eating, high levels of social disinhibition, or progressive mutism.
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
To identify rates of and risk factors for psychiatric diagnosis preceding the diagnosis of neurodegenerative disease (ND).
Systematic, retrospective, blinded chart review of patients with a ND diagnosis [behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD n=69); Alzheimer’s disease (AD n=65); semantic dementia (SemD n=41); progressive non-fluent aphasia (PNFA n=17); corticobasal degeneration (n=25); progressive supranuclear palsy (n=15); and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS n=20)].
28.2% of patients with a ND received a prior psychiatric diagnosis. Depression was the most common psychiatric diagnosis in all groups. BvFTD patients received a prior psychiatric diagnosis significantly more often (52.2%) than patients with AD (23.1%), SemD (24.4%), or PNFA (11.8%), and were more likely to receive diagnoses of bipolar affective disorder or schizophrenia than patients with other NDs (p<0.001). Younger age, higher education and a family history of psychiatric illness increased the rate of prior psychiatric diagnosis in patients with bvFTD (p<0.05). Cognitive, behavioral and emotional characteristics did not distinguish patients who did and did not receive a prior psychiatric diagnosis.
ND is often mistaken for psychiatric disease with bvFTD patients at highest risk for misdiagnosis. Because psychiatric misdiagnosis can lead to delayed and inappropriate treatment, and family and patient distress, physicians should consider referring mid- to late-life patients with new onset neuropsychiatric symptoms for ND evaluation.
neurodegenerative disease; misdiagnosis; frontotemporal dementia; neuropsychiatric; diagnostic confusion