A human brain showing frontotemporal lobar degeneration (right) causing frontotemporal dementia.
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a clinical syndrome caused by degeneration of the frontal lobe of the brain and may extend back to the temporal lobe. It is one of three syndromes caused by frontotemporal lobar degeneration.
What is Frontotemporal Dementia ?
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) describes a clinical syndrome associated with shrinking of the frontal and temporal anterior lobes of the brain. Originally known as Pick’s disease, the name and classification of FTD has been a topic of discussion for over a century. The current designation of the syndrome groups together Pick’s disease, primary progressive aphasia, and semantic dementia as FTD. Some doctors propose adding corticobasal degeneration and progressive supranuclear palsy to FTD and calling the group Pick Complex. These designations will continue to be debated. As it is defined today, the symptoms of FTD fall into two clinical patterns that involve either (1) changes in behavior, or (2) problems with language. The first type features behavior that can be either impulsive (disinhibited) or bored and listless (apathetic) and includes inappropriate social behavior; lack of social tact; lack of empathy; distractability; loss of insight into the behaviors of oneself and others; an increased interest in sex; changes in food preferences; agitation or, conversely, blunted emotions; neglect of personal hygiene; repetitive or compulsive behavior, and decreased energy and motivation. The second type primarily features symptoms of language disturbance, including difficulty making or understanding speech, often in conjunction with the behavioral type’s symptoms. Spatial skills and memory remain intact. There is a strong genetic component to the disease; FTD often runs in families.
Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) is a degenerative condition of the front (anterior) part of the brain. It differs from other causes of dementia such as Alzheimer’s, Pick’s and Creutzfeldt Jakob’s diseases. The areas of the brain affected by FTD—the frontal and anterior temporal lobes—control reasoning, personality, movement, speech, social graces, language and some aspects of memory.
Tests Used in the Diagnosis of Frontotemporal Dementia
More than 100 types of dementia have been found, but four of them account for nearly 98 percent of all cases of dementia in the United States.
FRONTOTEMPORAL DEMENTIA (FTD)
DESCRIPTION: FTD includes several disorders that cause the frontal lobes behind the forehead, and the temporal lobes at the sides of the brain, to atrophy and shrink. Patients either develop speech difficulties, known as aphasia, or they display inappropriate social behavior. Aphasia may involve halting, effortful speech with the patient struggling to produce the right word. Behavioral changes may involve indifference to the concerns of others. Some patients developing FTD may start shoplifting or become attracted to shiny objects or fire.
CAUSE: In FTD, a protein known as TDP-43 accumulates within cells at the front of the brain. In one form of FTD known as Pick's disease, tau protein, found in the hippocampus of people with AD, accumulates within cells in the frontal lobes.
TYPICAL CASE: A person developing FTD generally exhibits personality or mood changes. An outgoing person may become withdrawn and depressed, while an introverted person may become loud and outgoing. Socially inappropriate behavior may also become more common. Later, FTD patients may develop speech difficulties as they lose the ability to recall the meaning of words, or they may start to speak with great fluency while making no sense.
TREATMENT: Only symptomatic treatments are available with medications developed for other disorders, such as psychiatric medications for behavioral problems or mood disorders. There are no treatments for language problems.
ON THE HORIZON: Methylene blue, a drug in development for AD, inhibits the aggregation of tau protein, so it may help patients with Pick's disease. Another tau aggregation inhibitor known as AL-108, or davunetide, is in clinical trials, and may soon become the first tau-active drug available in the U.S. TDP-43, the offending protein in other forms of FTD, was discovered only three years ago, leaving little time for the development of effective treatments
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