Study Shows Apathy May Be Early Indicator of FTD


A recent study shows that apathy can be an early indicator of FTD, presenting itself long before other FTD symptoms emerge, Science Alert reported in a December 17 article.

Apathy, a lack of interest or motivation, is a common symptom of FTD.

“The more we discover about the earliest effects of [FTD], when people still feel well in themselves, the better we can treat symptoms and delay or even prevent the dementia,” the study’s lead author, Maura Malpetti of the University of Cambridge (UK), said in a press release.

The study was conducted by the Genetic Frontotemporal Dementia Initiative (GENFI), a collaboration between scientists across Europe and Canada.

Published in the Alzheimer’s Association’s Alzheimer’s & Dementia journal, the study observed 600 participants over the course of several years using cognitive tests and MRI scans of the brain. Roughly half of the participants carried a gene mutation that has been linked to FTD; the other half were relatives who do not have the mutation. None showed FTD symptoms when the study began.

The researchers found that people with the mutation showed apathy earlier and at greater levels than their mutation-negative relatives. Apathy in those with the gene mutation increased over the course of study and accurately predicted their decline due to FTD.

“Apathy progresses much faster for those individuals who we know are at greater risk of developing [FTD], and this is linked to greater atrophy in the brain,” said Professor Rogier Kievit from the Radboud University Medical Center at Nijmegen (Netherlands) and MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at Cambridge.

“At the start, even though the participants with a genetic mutation felt well and had no symptoms, they were showing greater levels of apathy,” Professor Kievit continued. “The amount of apathy predicted cognitive problems in the years ahead.”

The Winter 2018 issue of AFTD’s Partners in FTD Care provides an overview of what apathy in FTD looks like and ways to provide care.

Click here to read more.

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