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J Alzheimers Dis. 2014;41(3):793-800. doi: 10.3233/JAD-132219.

Neuroanatomical correlates of emotional blunting in behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia and early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Author information

Department of Psychology, School of Behavioral Health, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA, USA.
Department of Neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
Department of Neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA Greater Los Angeles VA Healthcare System, West Los Angeles, CA, USA.
Departments of Psychiatry and Bioengineering, University of Illinois, Chicago, IL, USA.
Laboratory of NeuroImaging, Institute for Neuroimaging and Informatics, Keck School of Medicine of USC, Los Angeles, CA, USA.



Emotional blunting is a characteristic feature of behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) and can help discriminate between patients with bvFTD and other forms of younger-onset dementia.


We compared the presence of emotional blunting symptoms in patients with bvFTD and early-onset Alzheimer's disease (AD), and investigated the neuroanatomical associations between emotional blunting and regional brain volume.


Twenty-five individuals with bvFTD (n = 11) and early-onset AD (n = 14) underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and were rated on symptoms of emotional blunting using the Scale for Emotional Blunting (SEB). The two groups were compared on SEB ratings and MRI-derived brain volume using tensor-based morphometry. Voxel-wise linear regression was performed to determine neuroanatomical correlates of SEB scores.


The bvFTD group had significantly higher SEB scores compared to the AD group. On MRI, bvFTD patients had smaller bilateral frontal lobe volume compared to AD patients, while AD patients had smaller bilateral temporal and left parietal volume than bvFTD patients. In bvFTD, SEB ratings were strongly correlated with right anterior temporal volume, while the association between SEB and the right orbitofrontal cortex was non-significant.


Symptoms of emotional blunting were more prevalent in bvFTD than early-onset AD patients. These symptoms were particularly associated with right-sided atrophy, with significant involvement of the right anterior temporal region. Based on these findings, the SEB appears to measure symptoms of emotional blunting that are localized to the right anterior temporal lobe.


Alzheimer's disease; early onset; emotional blunting; frontotemporal dementia; magnetic resonance imaging

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