Physiological, behavioral and subjective sadness reactivity in frontotemporal dementia subtypes


Frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a neurodegenerative disease broadly characterized by socioemotional impairments, includes three clinical subtypes: behavioral variant FTD (bvFTD), semantic variant primary progressive aphasia (svPPA) and non-fluent variant primary progressive aphasia (nfvPPA). Emerging evidence has shown emotional reactivity impairments in bvFTD and svPPA, whereas emotional reactivity in nfvPPA is far less studied. In 105 patients with FTD (49 bvFTD, 31 svPPA and 25 nfvPPA) and 27 healthy controls, we examined three aspects of emotional reactivity (physiology, facial behavior and subjective experience) in response to a sad film. In a subset of the sample, we also examined the neural correlates of diminished aspects of reactivity using voxel-based morphometry. Results indicated that all three subtypes of FTD showed diminished physiological responding in respiration rate and diastolic blood pressure; patients with bvFTD and svPPA also showed diminished subjective experience, and no subtypes showed diminished facial behavior. Moreover, there were differences among the clinical subtypes in brain regions where smaller volumes were associated with diminished sadness reactivity. These results show that emotion impairments extend to sadness reactivity in FTD and underscore the importance of considering different aspects of sadness reactivity in multiple clinical subtypes for characterizing emotional deficits and associated neurodegeneration in FTD.

Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience