Social Cognition and Emotional Assessment differentiates frontotemporal dementia from depression

J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2012 Apr;83(4):411-6. doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2011-301849. Epub 2012 Jan 29.


Background: Behavioural variant of frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) is a neurodegenerative disease that is clinically characterised by progressive behavioural changes and social interpersonal dysfunctions. Its diagnosis remains a clinical challenge, and depression is one of the main causes of misdiagnoses due to the prevalence of apathy in bvFTD.

Objective: To evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of the Social Cognition and Emotional Assessment (SEA) and the mini-SEA for differentiating bvFTD from major depressive disorder (MDD).

Methods: Scores for the SEA and mini-SEA for 37 patients with bvFTD (divided into subgroups of 17 with early bvFTD and 20 with moderate bvFTD according to the normal range of the Mattis Dementia Rating Scale), 19 MDD patients and 30 control subjects were compared to define the discrimination power of these tools compared with other standard neuropsychological tests.

Results: SEA and mini-SEA scores were significantly lower for both the early and moderate bvFTD groups compared with control subjects and the MDD group, and very few scores overlapped between patients in the bvFTD subgroups and patients in the MDD and control subgroups. SEA and mini-SEA scores distinguished early bvFTD from MDD with sensitivity and specificity rates above 94%.

Conclusion: Unlike standard executive neuropsychological tests, SEA and the mini-SEA can differentiate MDD from bvFTD in the early stages of the disease. The mini-SEA is an easy tool that can be utilised in neurological or psychiatric departments.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Frontotemporal Dementia / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Personality Assessment*
  • ROC Curve
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Social Behavior