Background: Literature data on Alzheimer's disease suggest that years of schooling and occupational level are associated with a reserve mechanism. No data on patients with behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) are available yet.
Objective: To evaluate the impact of education, occupation, and midlife leisure activities on brain reserve in bvFTD.
Methods: Fifty-four bvFTD patients entered the study and underwent neuropsychological and behavioral assessment, including the FTD-modified Clinical Dementia Rating for FTD (FTD-modified CDR), and SPECT imaging. We tested for the linear correlation of educational and occupational level, and midlife leisure activities with regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF), controlling for demographic variables (age and gender) and for cognitive performance (FTD-modified CDR) (statistical parametric mapping).
Results: A significant relationship between higher educational and occupational attainments and lower rCBF in medial frontal cortex and dorsolateral frontal cortex, bilaterally, was found (p < 0.005). When midlife leisure activities were considered, no correlation was found. The correlation between a reserve index, accounting for both educational and occupational level, and rCBF showed the same pattern of hypoperfusion.
Conclusions: This study suggests that education and occupation act as proxies for reserve capacity in bvFTD. These lifestyle attainments may counteract the onset of this genetic-based disease in at-risk individuals.