Longitudinal executive function and episodic memory profiles in behavioral-variant frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

Siddharth Ramanan, Maxime Bertoux, Emma Flanagan, Muireann Irish, Olivier Piguet, John R. Hodges, Michael Hornberger

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Objectives: With comparable baseline performance on executive functions (EF) and memory between Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and behavioral-variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), it is currently unclear if both diseases can be distinguished longitudinally on these measures reliably.

Methods: A total of 111 participants (33 AD, 31 bvFTD, and 47 controls) were followed-up annually over a 4-year period and tested on measures of EF, memory, and orientation. Linear mixed-effect models were constructed using disease severity as a nuisance variable to examine profiles of neuropsychological performance decline.

Results: At baseline, overlap in terms of cognitive impairment between bvFTD and AD on multiple EF, memory, and orientation measures was present. Longitudinally, only disinhibition (Hayling total errors) appeared sensitive to discriminating AD from bvFTD; however, only after the first annual follow-up. Subgroup analyses on smaller samples revealed comparable profiles on EF tasks at baseline and over time between bvFTD and AD who presented with impaired EF at presentation, and on memory and orientation tasks between AD and bvFTD who presented with severe amnesia.

Conclusions: Our results replicate previous findings showing only moderate discriminability between AD and bvFTD at clinical presentation on EF and memory measures. More importantly, we also show that longitudinal trajectories strongly overlap for both dementias on these measures. Disinhibition emerged as the sole measure that in the long run was significantly more impaired in bvFTD. Future studies should use tests designed to target cortical regions that are specifically impaired in bvFTD, such as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, to improve the accurate discrimination of these diseases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-43
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Issue number1
Early online date18 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017

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