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* Educate healthcare professionals

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Frontotemporal dementia explained

A doctor from Northwestern University was interested in seeing my brother and sister's artwork. I keep an eye on their website, some good information there.

This information is found on the NW University Website http://www.brain.northwestern.edu/mdad/frontal.html

I made sidenotes in red about our family experience with this disease:

What is frontotemporal dementia?
There is a type of dementia called "frontotemporal" which typically affects patients at a very early age. [Have now traced my sister’s from her 20’s and my brother in his 30’s] In this type of dementia, there is no true memory loss in the early stages of the type that is seen in Alzheimer's dementia. Instead, there are changes in personality, ability to concentrate, social skills, motivation and reasoning. Because of their nature, these symptoms are often confused with psychiatric disorders. [My sister had bouts of depression, once treated with electric shock treatments. My brother exhibited signs of depression in his 30’s and 40’s.] There are gradual changes in one's customary ways of behaving and responding emotionally to others. Memory, language and visual perception are usually not impaired for the first two years, yet as the disease progresses and spreads to other areas of the brain, they too may become affected. Typically, the disorder affects females more than males.

The symptoms reflect the fact that the brain degeneration is not initially widespread and settles in the parts of the brain that are important for social skills, reasoning, judgment and the ability to take initiative.

When the brains of individuals with frontal lobe dementia are studied after death, the types of microscopic abnormalities that are seen are typically of two kinds. The first type is called Non-specific focal degeneration and the second is labeled Pick's disease. [My sister was confirmed as Non-specific, we assume my brother was the same] Non-specific focal degeneration accounts for 80% of cases of frontal lobe dementia. It is called "non specific" because there are no abnormal particles that are identifiable-only evidence that brain cells have been eliminated. Pick's disease, which accounts for 20% of cases of frontal lobe dementia, is identified under the microscope by abnormal particles called "Pick bodies", named after the neurologist who first observed them.

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