Social Cognition and Emotional Assessment (SEA) is a marker of medial and orbital frontal functions: a voxel-based morphometry study in behavioral variant of frontotemporal degeneration

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2012 Nov;18(6):972-85. doi: 10.1017/S1355617712001300.


The aim of this study was to explore the cerebral correlates of functional deficits that occur in behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD). A specific neuropsychological battery, the Social cognition & Emotional Assessment (SEA; Funkiewiez et al., 2012), was used to assess impaired social and emotional functions in 20 bvFTD patients who also underwent structural MRI scanning. The SEA subscores of theory of mind, reversal-learning tests, facial emotion identification, and apathy evaluation were entered as covariates in a voxel-based morphometry analysis. The results revealed that the gray matter volume in the rostral part of the medial prefrontal cortex [mPFC, Brodmann area (BA) 10] was associated with scores on the theory of mind subtest, while gray matter volume within the orbitofrontal (OFC) and ventral mPFC (BA 11 and 47) was related to the scores observed in the reversal-learning subtest. Gray matter volume within BA 9 in the mPFC was correlated with scores on the emotion recognition subtest, and the severity of apathetic symptoms in the Apathy scale covaried with gray matter volume in the lateral PFC (BA 44/45). Among these regions, the mPFC and OFC cortices have been shown to be atrophied in the early stages of bvFTD. In addition, SEA and its abbreviated version (mini-SEA) have been demonstrated to be sensitive to early impairments in bvFTD (Bertoux et al., 2012). Taken together, these results suggest a differential involvement of orbital and medial prefrontal subregions in SEA subscores and support the use of the SEA to evaluate the integrity of these regions in the early stages of bvFTD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Affective Symptoms / etiology*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Avoidance Learning
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / pathology*
  • Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration* / complications
  • Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration* / pathology
  • Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Social Behavior*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Theory of Mind