Frontotemporal lobar degeneration: epidemiology, pathology, diagnosis and management

CNS Drugs. 2012 Oct 1;26(10):841-70. doi: 10.2165/11640070-000000000-00000.


Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) describes a spectrum of clinically, pathologically and genetically heterogeneous neurodegenerative disorders of unknown aetiology. FTLD spectrum disorders collectively represent a leading cause of early-onset dementia, with most cases presenting between 45 and 64 years of age. FTLD is characterized by progressive changes in behaviour, executive dysfunction and/or language impairment and can be differentiated clinically into three frontotemporal dementia (FTD) syndromes as follows: (i) behavioural variant (bvFTD); (ii) semantic dementia (SD); and (iii) progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA). Additionally, there is a significant clinical, pathological and genetic overlap between FTD and motor neuron disease/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (FTD-ALS) and the atypical parkinsonian syndromes, progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and corticobasal syndrome (CBS). bvFTD is characterized by progressive behavioural impairment and a decline in executive function with frontal lobe-predominant atrophy, SD by a loss of object knowledge with prominent anomia and asymmetrical atrophy of the anterior temporal lobes and PNFA by expressive or motor speech deficits with predominantly left peri-sylvian atrophy. Recent advances in molecular biology and immunohistochemical staining techniques have further classified the FTLD spectrum disorders based upon the predominant neuropathological protein into three main categories: (i) microtubule-associated protein tau (FTLD-TAU); (ii) TAR DNA-binding protein-43 (FTLD-TDP); and (iii) fused in sarcoma protein (FTLD-FUS). Up to 40% of FTD patients report a family history of neurodegenerative illness, and one-third to one-half of familial cases of FTD follow an autosomal dominant inheritance pattern. Mutations in MAPT, PGRN, TARDBP, VCP and CHMP2B have been described, along with a recently identified C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansion. To date, there are no US FDA-approved treatments or disease-modifying therapies for FTD. Pharmacological strategies have focused on neurotransmitter replacement and modulation for the treatment of behavioural, motor and cognitive symptoms of FTD, and include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), atypical antipsychotics, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and glutamate NMDA receptor antagonists. At present, adequate management of FTD symptoms involves a combination of pharmacological therapy with behavioural, physical and environmental modification techniques.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Frontotemporal Dementia / diagnosis
  • Frontotemporal Dementia / epidemiology
  • Frontotemporal Dementia / pathology
  • Frontotemporal Dementia / therapy
  • Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration / diagnosis*
  • Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration / epidemiology
  • Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration / pathology
  • Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / diagnosis
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / epidemiology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / therapy