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Front Neurol. 2019 Jun 7;10:594. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2019.00594. eCollection 2019.

Psychological and Cognitive Markers of Behavioral Variant Frontotemporal Dementia-A Clinical Neuropsychologist's View on Diagnostic Criteria and Beyond.

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Section for Neuropsychology, Department of Neurology, University Hospital Münster, Münster, Germany.
Univ Lille, Inserm UMR 1171 Degenerative and Vascular Cognitive Disorders, CHU Lille, Lille, France.


Behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) is the second leading cognitive disorder caused by neurodegeneration in patients under 65 years of age. Characterized by frontal, insular, and/or temporal brain atrophy, patients present with heterogeneous constellations of behavioral and psychological symptoms among which progressive changes in social conduct, lack of empathy, apathy, disinhibited behaviors, and cognitive impairments are frequently observed. Since the histopathology of the disease is heterogeneous and identified genetic mutations only account for ~30% of cases, there are no reliable biomarkers for the diagnosis of bvFTD available in clinical routine as yet. Early detection of bvFTD thus relies on correct application of clinical diagnostic criteria. Their evaluation however, requires expertise and in-depth assessments of cognitive functions, history taking, clinical observations as well as caregiver reports on behavioral and psychological symptoms and their respective changes. With this review, we aim for a critical appraisal of common methods to access the behavioral and psychological symptoms as well as the cognitive alterations presented in the diagnostic criteria for bvFTD. We highlight both, practical difficulties as well as current controversies regarding an overlap of symptoms and particularly cognitive impairments with other neurodegenerative and primary psychiatric diseases. We then review more recent developments and evidence on cognitive, behavioral and psychological symptoms of bvFTD beyond the diagnostic criteria which may prospectively enhance the early detection and differential diagnosis in clinical routine. In particular, evidence on specific impairments in social and emotional processing, praxis abilities as well as interoceptive processing in bvFTD is summarized and potential links with behavior and classic cognitive domains are discussed. We finally outline both, future opportunities and major challenges with regard to the role of clinical neuropsychology in detecting bvFTD and related neurocognitive disorders.


apraxia; behavior; bvFTD; cognition; diagnosis; interoception; neuropsychological assessment; social cognition

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