The new neuropathology of degenerative frontotemporal dementias

Acta Neuropathol. 1996;91(2):127-34. doi: 10.1007/s004010050403.


The clinical features and recent developments in the neuropathology of frontotemporal dementia are reviewed. The five main neurodegenerative disorders that underlie the clinical syndrome of frontotemporal dementia are distinguished using immunohistochemistry with antisera to ubiquitin and tau proteins. Motor neuron disease-type dementia is characterised by ubiquitin-immunoreactive intraneuronal inclusions in cortical layer II and the hippocampal dentate granule cells. A diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease changes is based upon the presence of neurofibrillary tangles, which immunostain with antibodies to tau and ubiquitin, and many associated neuritic plaques. Corticobasal degeneration is diagnosed by the presence of tau-immunoreactive, but ubiquitin-non-reactive intraneuronal inclusions in cortical layer II and the substantia nigra. Pick's disease is restricted to cases with tau- and ubiquitin-immunoreactive spherical cortical intraneuronal inclusions (Pick bodies), best seen in the hippocampal dentate gyrus and frontotemporal cortex. Dementia of frontal type is the preferred term for cases in which no intraneuronal inclusions are seen with antisera to tau and ubiquitin. A practical approach to the pathological diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia and the differential diagnosis of the five disorders using immunohistochemical studies is provided.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Dementia / pathology*
  • Frontal Lobe / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Nerve Degeneration
  • Temporal Lobe / pathology*