Behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) strikes hardest at the frontal lobes, but the sites of earliest injury remain unclear.
To determine atrophy patterns in distinct clinical stages of bvFTD, testing the hypothesis that the mildest stage is restricted to frontal paralimbic cortex.
A bvFTD cohort study.
University hospital dementia clinic.
Patients with bvFTD with Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) scale scores of 0.5 (n = 15), 1 (n = 15), or 2 to 3 (n = 15) age and sex matched to each other and to 45 healthy controls.
Main Outcome Measures
Magnetic resonance voxel-based morphometry estimated gray matter and white matter atrophy at each disease stage compared with controls.
Patients with a CDR score of 0.5 had gray matter loss in frontal paralimbic cortices, but atrophy also involved a network of anterior cortical and subcortical regions. A CDR score of 1 showed more extensive frontal gray matter atrophy and white matter losses in corpus callosum and brainstem. A CDR score of 2 to 3 showed additional posterior insula, hippocampus, and parietal involvement, with white matter atrophy in presumed frontal projection fibers.
Very mild bvFTD targets a specific subset of frontal and insular regions. More advanced disease affects white matter and posterior gray matter structures densely interconnected with the sites of earliest injury.