Diminished self-conscious emotional responding in frontotemporal lobar degeneration patients

Emotion. 2008 Dec;8(6):861-9. doi: 10.1037/a0013765.


Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a neurodegenerative disease that dramatically alters social and emotional behavior. Recent work has suggested that self-conscious emotions (e.g., embarrassment) may be particularly vulnerable to disruption in this disease. Self-conscious emotions require the ability to monitor the self in relation to others. These abilities are thought to be subserved by brain regions (e.g., medial prefrontal, anterior cingulate, and insula) that are particularly vulnerable to damage in FTLD. This study examined emotional responding (expressive behavior, peripheral physiology, and subjective experience) in 24 FTLD patients and 16 cognitively normal control participants using a karaoke task known to elicit self-conscious emotion reliably and a nonemotional control task (isometric handgrip). Results indicated that FTLD patients showed diminished self-conscious emotional behavior (embarrassment and amusement) and diminished physiological responding while watching themselves singing. No differences were found between patients and controls in the nonemotional control task. These findings offer evidence of marked disruption of self-conscious emotional responding in FTLD. Diminished self-conscious emotional responding likely contributes significantly to social inappropriateness and other behavioral abnormalities in FTLD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Affect*
  • Aged
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Consciousness*
  • Dementia / epidemiology
  • Dementia / pathology*
  • Dementia / psychology*
  • Exercise
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Self Concept*
  • Videotape Recording