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Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease
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Signs & Symptoms of bvFTD

Persons with this form of dementia may look like they have problems in almost all areas of mental function. This is because all mental activity requires attention, concentration and the ability to organize information, all of which are impaired in frontal lobe dementia. Careful testing, however, usually shows that most of the problems stem from a lack of persistence and increased inertia. Symptoms include:

Impairments in Social Skills

  • Inappropriate or bizarre social behavior (e.g., eating with one's fingers in public, doing sit-ups in a public restroom, being overly familiar with strangers)
  • "Loosening" of normal social restraints (e.g., using obscene language or making inappropriate sexual remarks)

Changes in Activity Level

  • Apathy, withdrawal, loss of interest, lack of motivation and initiative that may appear to be depression, but the patient does not experience sad feelings
  • In some instances, there is an increase in purposeless activity (e.g., pacing, constant cleaning) or agitation

Decreased Judgment

  • Impairments in financial decision-making (e.g., impulsive spending)
  • Difficulty recognizing consequences of behavior
  • Lack of appreciation for threats to safety (e.g., inviting strangers into home)

Changes in Personal Habits

  • Lack of concern over personal appearance
  • Irresponsibility
  • Compulsiveness (need to carry out repeated actions that are inappropriate or not relevant to the situation at hand)

Alterations in Personality and Mood

  • Increased irritability, decreased ability to tolerate frustration

Changes in Emotional Responsiveness

  • A lack of sympathy or compassion in someone who was typically responsive to others' distress
  • Heightened emotionality in someone who was typically less emotionally responsive
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