What is FTD?

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a group of related conditions resulting from the progressive degeneration of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. These areas of the brain play a significant role in decision- making, behavioral control, emotion and language.

What are the different types of FTD?

The term “frontotemporal dementia” (FTD) includes several variants:

  • Behavioral variant FTD (bvFTD).
  • Semantic dementia (SD).
  • Progressive non-fluent aphasia (PNFA).
  • FTD with motor neuron disease (FTD-MND).                                                                             

Who does FTD affect?

Approximately 40% of patients with frontotemporal dementia have a family history of a similar dementia, while 60% of people with FTD develop it without any known cause.

In people under age 60, FTD is the most common form of dementia and affects as many people as Alzheimer’s disease in the 40-64 age group. People as young as their 20’s and as old as their 80’s have been diagnosed with FTD.

Men are affected more commonly than men.

What happens to the brain with FTD?

The disease can cause the outermost layers of the frontal and or temporal lobes to shrink, particular proteins to clump and brain tissue to scar.

How is FTD diagnosed?

Because of the complexity of the disease, a comprehensive evaluation is necessary and may take place over several visits. Some of the diagnostic tools are;


Structural Scans:

  • MRI, magnetic resonance imaging, is one of the most useful tests in the evaluation of FTD. MRI uses magnetic fields and radio waves, without any X-rays, to produce images inside the brain. It is non-invasive and considered very safe.
  • CT scan, computed tomography is similar to the MRI but does not image the brain structure with the fine precision of MR. A CT scan is an X-ray technique that produces cross – sectional images of your head or body.

Functional Scans:

  • SPECT, single photon emission computed tomography, shows how blood flows through the arteries in the brain. A tracer is injected into a vein in the arm, and then the scanner detects the movement of the tracer through the brain and computes the brain activity.
  • PET, positron emission tomography, shows the activity of tissues by measuring the energy usage (metabolic rate) of your brain. By detecting metabolic changes in the brain, the doctor can see which areas are healthy versus dysfunctional. PET combines a brain camera and tracer, such as Amyloid which can tell whether a patient is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, versus FTD.
  • fMRI, functional MRI shows changes in the flow of blood in the brain, which represent active areas of the brain using more or less blood to perform certain tasks.

Neuropsychological Testing:

Tests evaluate:

  • conduct
  • language
  • visuospatial abilities
  • memory
  • abstraction
  • planning
  • mental control
  • motor skills
  • intelligence

Tests of the FTD patient may show visual and memory abilities intact. However, abstract thinking, word generation, and ability to follow the rules may be disrupted.

Blood and spinal fluid collection.

Family History and observations by family members/partners.

A complete family medical  history is a valuable tool for doctors.

Family members or partners may be able to provide information regarding in changes in the patient’s behaviors, demeanor and motor skills as well as any difficulties in speech or language. Any record keeping of changes by those who are closest to the patient is helpful.

What treatments are available for FTD?

There is no treatment to slow the progression or reverse the damage of FTD, but medications and lifestyle changes can relieve some symptoms. FTD is not contagious. There is no cure.