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Review
The behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) syndrome in psychiatry
  1. Serggio C Lanata,
  2. Bruce L Miller
  1. Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco, Memory and Aging Center, San Francisco, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Serggio Lanata, Department of Neurology, Memory and Aging Center, University of California, 675 Nelson Rising Lane, Suite 190, San Francisco, CA 94158, USA; slanata{at}memory.ucsf.edu

Abstract

The primary goal of this article is to critically discuss the syndromic overlap that exists between early behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD)—the most common clinical syndrome associated with frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD)—and several primary psychiatric disorders. We begin by summarising the current state of knowledge regarding FTLD, including the recent discovery of FTLD-causative genetic mutations. Clinicopathological correlations in FTLD are subsequently discussed, while emphasising that clinical syndromes of FTD are dictated by the distribution of FTLD pathology in the brain. We then review a large number of cases with suspected and confirmed bvFTD that had previously been diagnosed with a primary psychiatric disorder. The clinical and neuroscientific implications of this overlap are discussed, focusing on the importance of early diagnosis for clinical and therapeutic reasons. We propose that largely due to the paucity of biomarkers for primary psychiatric disorders, and the limited use of FTLD-related biomarkers by psychiatrists at present, it is very difficult to separate patients with early bvFTD from those with primary psychiatric disorders based on clinical grounds. Furthermore, specific limitations of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) 5 criteria for bvFTD may inadvertently discourage recognition of bvFTD in mental health settings. Clinically, more research is needed to develop tools that allow early differentiation of bvFTD from primary psychiatric disease, as bvFTD therapies will likely be most effective in the earliest stages of disease. From a neuroscience perspective, we argue that bvFTD provides an excellent paradigm for investigating the neural basis of psychiatric disorders.

  • DEMENTIA
  • FRONTAL LOBE
  • NEUROPSYCHIATRY
  • BEHAVIOURAL DISORDER
  • PSYCHIATRY

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