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J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2019 Feb;25(2):184-194. doi: 10.1017/S1355617718001005. Epub 2018 Nov 21.

Cognitive Indicators of Preclinical Behavioral Variant Frontotemporal Dementia in MAPT Carriers.

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1Columbia University,Cognitive Neuroscience Division of the Taub Institute,G.H. Sergievsky Center,Department of Neurology,New York, New York.
2Columbia University,Department of Biostatistics,Mailman School of Public Health,New York, New York.
4Dublin Neurological Institute,Dublin,Ireland.
5The University of Michigan,Department of Neurology,Ann Arbor, Michigan.



The cognitive indicators of preclinical behavioral variant Frontotemporal Dementia (bvFTD) have not been identified. To investigate these indicators, we compared cross-sectional performance on a range of cognitive measures in 12 carriers of pathogenic MAPT mutations not meeting diagnostic criteria for bvFTD (i.e., preclinical) versus 32 demographically-matched familial non-carriers (n = 44). Studying preclinical carriers offers a rare glimpse into emergent disease, environmentally and genetically contextualized through comparison to familial controls.


Evaluating personnel blinded to carrier status administered a standardized neuropsychological battery assessing attention, speed, executive function, language, memory, spatial ability, and social cognition. Results from mixed effect modeling were corrected for multiplicity of comparison by the false discovery rate method, and results were considered significant at p < .05. To control for potential interfamilial variation arising from enrollment of six families, family was treated as a random effect, while carrier status, age, gender, and education were treated as fixed effects.


Group differences were detected in 17 of 31 cognitive scores and spanned all domains except spatial ability. As hypothesized, carriers performed worse on specific measures of executive function, and social cognition, but also on measures of attention, speed, semantic processing, and memory storage and retrieval.


Most notably, group differences arose on measures of memory storage, challenging long-standing ideas about the absence of amnestic features on neuropsychological testing in early bvFTD. Current findings provide important and clinically relevant information about specific measures that may be sensitive to early bvFTD, and advance understanding of neurocognitive changes that occur early in the disease. (JINS, 2019, 25, 184-194).


Cognition disorders; Frontotemporal dementia; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; MAPT protein; Neurodegenerative hereditary disease; Tauopathy

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