This study was done to determine whether there are phenotypic differences in cognition and behaviour between patients with FTD-ALS and bvFTD alone.
Patients with bvFTD or FTD-ALS and healthy controls underwent neuropsychological testing, focusing on language, executive functions and social cognition. 23 people with the bvFTD, 20 FTD-ALS and 30 controls participated. On cognitive tests, highly significant differences were elicited between patients and controls, confirming the tests’ sensitivities to FTD. bvFTD and FTD-ALS groups performed similarly, although with slightly greater difficulty in patients with ALS-FTD on category fluency and a sentence-ordering task that assesses grammar production. Patients with bvFTD demonstrated more widespread behavioural change, with more frequent disinhibition, impulsivity, loss of empathy and repetitive behaviours. Behaviour in FTD-ALS was dominated by apathy. The C9ORF72 repeat expansion was associated with poorer performance on language-related tasks.
The study concluded that the differences were elicited in cognition and behaviour between bvFTD and FTD-ALS, and patients carrying the C9ORF72 repeat expansion. The findings, which raise the possibility of phenotypic variation between bvFTD and FTD-ALS, have clinical implications for early detection of FTD-ALS and theoretical implications for the nature of the relationship between FTD and ALS.