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Frontotemporal Dementia

What is frontotemporal dementia?

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease which primarily presents with changes in to a person’s behavior and/or language, attention and other cognitive deficits leading to impaired independent living.

What causes FTD?

FTD is caused by progressive loss of neurons in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain which are responsible for controlling human behavior, higher cognitive functioning, and language. There are several chemicals found in damaged nerve and surrounding cells, specifically proteins called TDP-42, hyperphosphorylated tau or FUS proteins.

What are the symptoms of FTD?

Patients with FTD could present with changes in behavior (called behavioral variant of FTD), or language (separate diagnostic category called Primary Progressive Aphasia). Behavioral symptoms could include: making inappropriate comments, loss of understanding of others feelings, loss of manners, and impulsive behaviors. These patients also develop difficulties with judgment, attention, and planning, and may develop repetitive behaviors. Some patients may not realize that they have any deficits.

How is one diagnosed with FTD?

Initially, patients show behavioral changes and perform normally on testing. With disease progression, patients start exhibiting deficits in thinking, planning, judgment, and attention which can be seen during neuropsychological testing. Other tests, such as special imaging techniques and genetic testing may be necessary to establish or confirm the diagnosis.

What treatments are available for FTD?

Medications may be necessary to control inappropriate or impulsive behaviors. The medications used are the same ones psychiatrists use for treating depression or psychosis. There are no available treatments which can alter the disease process and chemical changes in the brain.

Is FTD inherited?

Most FTD patients do not have a clear genetic cause for it. About 30 to 40 percent of patients have a family history of neurodegenerative disease. The most common genes encountered in familial FTD are located in the genes called C9ORF72, MAPT (microtubule-associated protein tau) and progranulin. There are also other, rare, genetic mutations which might be associated with FTD.

Can patients be evaluated at Capital Institute for Neurosciences for FTD?

Capital Institute for Neurosciences provides an array of services necessary for diagnosing and treating people with FTD. This includes a team evaluation by experienced physicians and neuropsychologists. Social workers, genetic counselors, and therapists are available if needed.

The information provided on these educational pages is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. And, if experiencing a medical emergency call 9-1-1.

Last updated 10/2013