Frontotemporal lobar degeneration: a clinical approach

Semin Neurol. 2014 Apr;34(2):189-201. doi: 10.1055/s-0034-1381735. Epub 2014 Jun 25.


In this review, the authors outline a clinical approach to frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), a term coined to describe a pathology associated with atrophy of the frontal and temporal lobes commonly seen with abnormal protein aggregates. It accounts for ∼10% of pathologically confirmed dementias. The three clinical syndromes associated with FTLD are jointly classified as frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and include behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), nonfluent-agrammatic primary progressive aphasia (nfvPPA), and semantic variant PPA (svPPA; left: l-svPPA and right: r-svPPA). All syndromes have differential impairment in behavioral (bvFTD; r-svPPA), executive (bvFTD; nfvPPA), and language (nfvPPA; svPPA) functions early in the disease course. With all three there is relative sparing of short-term memory and visuospatial abilities early on, and with the two language syndromes, nfvPPA and svPPA, behavior is also intact. Symptoms are associated with specific atrophy patterns, lending unique imaging signatures to each syndrome (frontal: bvFTD and nfvPPA; temporal: svPPA). Common proteinopathies involve accumulation of tau, transactive response DNA binding protein 43, and fusion in sarcoma protein. Parkinsonism presents in all syndromes, especially cases with tau pathology and MAPT or GRN mutations. nfvPPA often has corticobasal degeneration or progressive supranuclear palsy as the underlying neuropathological substrate. bvFTD co-occurs with motor neuron disease in ∼15% of cases, and many such cases are due to C9Orf72 mutations. Other common genetic mutations in FTLD involve GRN and MAPT. Behavioral symptoms are best managed by selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, while atypical antipsychotics should be used with caution given side effects. Promising etiologic treatments include anti-tau antibodies, antisense oligonucleotides, and progranulin enhancers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration / diagnosis*
  • Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration / pathology
  • Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology