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Research paper
Psychiatric symptoms in preclinical behavioural-variant frontotemporal dementia in MAPT mutation carriers


Objective To characterise psychiatric symptoms in preclinical and early behavioural-variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), a neurodegenerative disorder whose symptoms overlap with and are often mistaken for psychiatric illness.

Methods The present study reports findings from a systematic, global, prospective evaluation of psychiatric symptoms in 12 preclinical carriers of pathogenic MAPT mutations, not yet meeting bvFTD diagnostic criteria, and 46 familial non-carrier controls. Current psychiatric symptoms, informant-reported symptoms and lifetime prevalence of psychiatric disorders were assessed with The Structured Clinical Interview for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) and the Neuropsychiatric Inventory Questionnaire. Fisher exact test was used to compare carriers and non-carriers’ lifetime prevalence of six DSM-IV disorders: major depressive disorder, panic attacks, alcohol abuse, generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and depressive disorder not otherwise specified. Other DSM-IV disorders had insufficient prevalence across our sample for between-group comparisons, but are reported.

Results Non-carriers had greater prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders than has been reported for a general reference population. Preclinical carriers had lower lifetime prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders than non-carriers, except for depressive disorder not otherwise specified, an atypical syndrome comprising clinically significant depressive symptoms which fail to meet criteria for major depressive disorder.

Conclusion Findings suggest that early psychiatric symptoms of emergent bvFTD may manifest as emotional blunting or mood changes not cleanly conforming to criteria for a DSM-defined mood disorder.

  • frontotemporal dementia
  • genetics
  • neuropsychiatry
  • tau
  • frontal lobe

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