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J Mol Neurosci. 2011 Nov;45(3):379-83. doi: 10.1007/s12031-011-9528-0. Epub 2011 May 7.

Pathological staging of frontotemporal lobar degeneration.

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Discipline of Medicine, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia.


We developed a staging scheme for assessing pathology in frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), which relates to atrophy and accounts for the large variability seen at postmortem (Broe et al. 2003;60:1005-11). Atrophy of the temporal lobe has the most linear relationship to disease stage. We review how this simple staging technique has been applied in clinical settings, where it is the best predictor of survival and discriminates semantic dementia and behavioural phenocopies. Patients with clinical presentations of motor neuron disease or progressive supranuclear palsy have significantly lower disease stages than other FTLD syndromes. We also review the pathologies relating to disease stage. There is no significant difference in the overall distribution of stages between the different pathological subtypes of FTLD, indicating a similar underlying disease process. The cellular variables relating independently to increasing disease stage are (1) increasing neuronal loss, astrocytosis and microvacuolation, and (2) increasing glial apoptosis. Of note, the degree of protein deposition does not relate to disease stage.

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