Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology
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REVIEW
Year : 2010  |  Volume : 13  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 81-88

Motor neuron disease and frontotemporal dementia: One, two, or three diseases?


Human Cognitive Neuroscience and Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Correspondence Address:
Thomas H Bak
Human Cognitive Neuroscience, 7 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9JZ
United Kingdom
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0972-2327.74250

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The relationship between motor neurone disease (MND) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) has been a topic of scientific exploration for over hundred years. A connection between both diseases was first postulated in 1932 and has been strengthened by a steady stream of case reports since then. By the late 20th century, the link between both diseases was firmly established, with the resulting condition often referred to as MND/FTD. Several strands of evidence support the notion of an MND/FTD overlap. First, a small but well-documented group of patients present with a full-blown FTD, associated with MND. Second, subtle but characteristic changes in frontal-executive functions and social cognition have been described in non-demented MND patients, often in association with frontal atrophy/hypoactivity on neuroimaging. Third, amyotrophic features have been documented in patients primarily diagnosed with FTD. Moreover, the same genetic defect can lead to FTD and MND phenotypes in different members of the same family. However, as the current research is moving toward a more fine-grained evaluation, an increasingly complex picture begins to emerge. Some features, such as psychotic symptoms or severe language deficits (particularly in comprehension and verb processing), seem to occur more often in MND/dementia than in the classical FTD. On the basis of the review of 100 years of literature as well as 10 years of clinical experience of longitudinal follow-up of MND/dementia patients, this review argues in favor of MND/dementia (or, more precisely, MND/dementia/aphasia) as a separate clinical entity, not sufficiently explained by a combination of MND and FTD.


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