The clinical syndromes of frontotemporal lobar degeneration include behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) and semantic (SV-PPA) and nonfluent variants (NF-PPA) of primary progressive aphasia. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), tensor-based morphometry (TBM) was used to determine distinct patterns of atrophy between these three clinical groups.
Twenty-seven participants diagnosed with bvFTD, 16 with SV-PPA, and 19 with NF-PPA received baseline and follow-up MRI scans approximately 1 year apart. TBM was used to create three-dimensional Jacobian maps of local brain atrophy rates for individual subjects.
Regional analyses were performed on the three-dimensional maps and direct comparisons between groups (corrected for multiple comparisons using permutation tests) revealed significantly greater frontal lobe and frontal white matter atrophy in the bvFTD relative to the SV-PPA group (p < 0.005). The SV-PPA subjects exhibited significantly greater atrophy than the bvFTD in the fusiform gyrus (p = 0.007). The NF-PPA group showed significantly more atrophy in the parietal lobes relative to both bvFTD and SV-PPA groups (p < 0.05). Percent volume change in ventromedial prefrontal cortex was significantly associated with baseline behavioral symptomatology.
The bvFTD, SV-PPA, and NF-PPA groups displayed distinct patterns of progressive atrophy over a 1-year period that correspond well to the behavioral disturbances characteristic of the clinical syndromes. More specifically, the bvFTD group showed significant white matter contraction and presence of behavioral symptoms at baseline predicted significant volume loss of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex.