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Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2011 Aug;26(8):783-92. doi: 10.1002/gps.2620. Epub 2010 Oct 28.

Lack of awareness of symptoms in people with dementia: the structural and functional basis.

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OPTIMA Project, Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Oxford, UK; FMRIB Centre, University of Oxford, UK.



To review studies investigating the brain correlates of unawareness of cognitive and behavioural symptoms in people with dementia.


A detailed search of the literature was conducted to include all the peer-reviewed studies published in English aimed at identifying the structural or functional brain correspondents of unawareness in dementia patients. Their results were interpreted in relation to the methodological differences in terms of type of dementia studied, the protocol adopted to measure lack of awareness, the imaging techniques employed, the experimental designs and statistical analyses performed.


Eighteen studies undertaken to explore the functional and structural correlates of unawareness of cognitive symptoms in dementia were identified. Although their results showed a disparate range of brain correlates, they were mainly localized in frontal and temporo-parietal regions.


Although the anatomical correlates of unawareness of disease in dementia have not yet been exhaustively explored, understanding the correlates of unawareness may also contribute to understand the brain correlates of self-awareness and self-reflection. We discuss the current knowledge base and consider potential future directions for research.

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