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What is behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia?

Prof. Nick Fox describes frontotemporal dementia and Dr Jon Rohrer introduces the behavioural variant.
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Frontotemporal dementia, or FTD, is one of the causes of dementia. So people often equate dementia with Alzheimer’s disease, but in fact, there are many, many different causes, some of which are neurodegenerative, where brain cells die for a number of reasons, genetic or otherwise, that often we don’t know the cause of. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common, accounting for the vast proportion, more than 50%, 60% of people in the over 65 age bracket. In the under 65, a number of less common causes are relatively more important, in numerical terms. And frontotemporal dementia is probably the second most common cause of dementia in the under 65s. Pick’s disease is a term that is often used for frontotemporal dementia.
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Pick described frontotemporal dementia in the 1900s, and so it acquired his name. But over the years, it’s become known more as frontotemporal dementia. So we tend to use those terms interchangeably. So Pick’s disease equals frontotemporal dementia. But nowadays, we’ve gone on to start using the term frontotemporal dementia. It’s called frontotemporal dementia because of the frontal and temporal lobes. They’re the two lobes of the brain right at the front, and they control some specific functions. So they control behaviour and also language. So those are the two main problems that we see in people with FTD, so either presenting with a change in their behaviour, a change in their personality, or on the other hand, a change in their language.
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BVFTD, or behavioural variant FTD, got a number of different names, sometimes called the frontal variant of FTD, because it’s thought to affect right at the very front part of the brain. So in that particular condition, there tends to be a very slowly progressive change in personality or the development of behavioural symptoms.
Prof. Nick Fox gives an overview of frontotemporal dementia and Dr Jon Rohrer explains where the name for the syndrome came from, before introducing the behavioural variant.
Frontotemporal dementia includes a number of overlapping syndromes:
Behavioural variant FTD affects the very front part of the brain and involves a change in personality or the development of behavioural symptoms.
Primary progressive aphasias are forms of FTD in which the temporal lobes and language are most affected. A number of different types of language impairment are recognised as different forms of primary progressive aphasia:
  • Semantic dementia
  • Progressive non-fluent aphasia
  • Logopenic aphasia
Most of this week focuses on the behavioural variant of FTD, but we also look at some of the language changes later on in the week.
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The Many Faces of Dementia

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