The clinical profile of right temporal lobe atrophy

Brain. 2009 May;132(Pt 5):1287-98. doi: 10.1093/brain/awp037. Epub 2009 Mar 18.


Frontotemporal lobar degeneration is currently associated with three syndromic variants. Disorders of speech and language figure prominently in two of the three variants, and are associated with left-sided frontotemporal atrophy. The detailed characterization of these syndromes contrasts with the relative paucity of information relating to frontotemporal lobar degeneration primarily affecting the right cerebral hemisphere. The objective of this study was to identify the clinical profile associated with asymmetrical, predominantly right-sided, temporal lobe atrophy. Twenty patients with predominant right temporal lobe atrophy were identified on the basis of blinded visual assessment of the MRI scans. The severity of right temporal lobe atrophy was quantified using volumetric analysis of the whole temporal lobes, the amygdala and the hippocampus. Profiles of cognitive function, behavioural and personality changes were obtained on each patient. The pattern of atrophy and the clinical features were compared with those observed in a group of patients with semantic dementia and predominant left-sided temporal lobe atrophy. The mean right temporal lobe volume in the right temporal lobe atrophy group was reduced by 37%, with the mean left temporal lobe volume reduced by 19%. There was marked atrophy of the right hippocampus and right amygdala, with mean volumes reduced by 41 and 51%, respectively (left hippocampus and amygdala volumes were reduced by 18 and 33%, respectively). The most prominent cognitive deficits were impairment of episodic memory and getting lost. Prosopagnosia was a symptom in right temporal lobe atrophy patients. These patients also exhibited a variety of behavioural symptoms including social disinhibition, depression and aggressive behaviour. Nearly all behavioural disorders were more prevalent in the right temporal lobe atrophy patient group than the semantic dementia group. Symptoms particular to the right temporal lobe atrophy patient group included hyper-religiosity, visual hallucinations and cross-modal sensory experiences. The combination of clinical features associated with predominant right temporal lobe atrophy differs significantly from those associated with the other syndromes associated with focal degeneration of the frontal and temporal lobes and it is, therefore, proposed that this right temporal variant should be considered a separate syndromic variant of frontotemporal lobar degeneration.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Atrophy
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Dementia / pathology
  • Dementia / psychology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / pathology
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / pathology
  • Memory Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / pathology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Organ Size
  • Prosopagnosia / pathology
  • Temporal Lobe / pathology*