The relationship between affective decision-making and theory of mind in the frontal variant of fronto-temporal dementia

Neuropsychologia. 2007 Jan 28;45(2):342-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2006.05.031. Epub 2006 Aug 8.


Structural brain imaging and neuropsychological data implicate the orbital aspects of prefrontal cortex in the developing neuropathology of fvFTD. Damage to this region is associated with deficient performance on laboratory tasks assessing theory of mind (ToM) and affective decision-making (DM), but the relationship between these two capacities in patients with prefrontal cortex dysfunction is unclear. We studied a group of patients with early/mild fvFTD (n=20) and a group of matched normal controls (n=10) on the Iowa gambling task (IGT) of affective decision-making, and the "reading the mind in the eyes" (MIE) and "faux pas" (FP) tests of ToM. The fvFTD group was impaired in both ToM tasks and the IGT. While performance measures from the two ToM tasks were significantly correlated, they were not associated with IGT performance. This suggests that whilst similar prefrontal circuitry is implicated in ToM and DM tasks, these cognitive domains may be independent. In clinical settings, the IGT may be useful as a complementary tool to the frontal test battery for patients with early/mild fvFTD. Deficits in decision-making and ToM observed in this study have distinct but additive effects upon the development of social behaviour in patients with prefrontal dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Atrophy
  • Attention / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Dementia / physiopathology*
  • Dementia / psychology*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Gambling / psychology
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests