Information about Dementia Affecting the Front & Side Lobes of the Brain

Frontotemporal dementia is much less common and well known than Alzheimer's disease, accounting for 5 percent of dementia cases. It affects the front (frontal lobes) and side (temporal lobes) of the brain. It affects men and women equally, usually starting between ages 40 and 65, and progresses more rapidly than Alzheimer's.Frontotemporal dementia has several forms and causes, but personality changes or problems with language are usually the earliest symptoms.

About one third of cases have an identifiable genetic cause. A person with the frontal or behavioral type of dementia may exhibit bizarre or out-of-character behavior, including:

  • reckless spending
  • gambling
  • shoplifting
  • making inappropriate comments
  • engaging in repetitive behaviors

People with the temporal lobe form have problems expressing or understanding spoken language. Pick's disease is responsible for approximately one third of frontotemporal dementia cases. Symptoms include personality changes, inability to make plans and set goals, unawareness of any loss of mental function, and language difficulties (aphasia). Palilalia—compulsive repetition of a word or phrase with increasing rapidity—sometimes occurs later in the illness.

The course of Pick's disease can vary from two to 10 years, but it is ultimately fatal.

Recent studies suggest that five other neurological diseases associated with dementia may involve abnormalities similar to those of frontotemporal dementia. These include:

  • corticobasal ganglionic degeneration
  • hippocampal sclerosis
  • motor neuron disease inclusion dementia
  • primary progressive aphasia
  • progressive supranuclear palsy

Publication Review By: Peter V. Rabins, M.D., M.P.H.

Published: 09 Mar 2011

Last Modified: 01 Dec 2014