Neuropsychology Review

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 280–297 | Cite as

Disturbance of Emotion Processing in Frontotemporal Dementia: A Synthesis of Cognitive and Neuroimaging Findings



Accurate processing of emotional information is a critical component of appropriate social interactions and interpersonal relationships. Disturbance of emotion processing is present in frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and is a clinical feature in two of the three subtypes: behavioural-variant FTD and semantic dementia. Emotion processing in progressive nonfluent aphasia, the third FTD subtype, is thought to be mostly preserved, although current evidence is scant. This paper reviews the literature on emotion recognition, reactivity and expression in FTD subtypes, although most studies focus on emotion recognition. The relationship between patterns of emotion processing deficits and patterns of neural atrophy are considered, by integrating evidence from recent neuroimaging studies. The review findings are discussed in the context of three contemporary theories of emotion processing: the limbic system model, the right hemisphere model and a multimodal system of emotion. Results across subtypes of FTD are most consistent with the multimodal system model, and support the presence of somewhat dissociable neural correlates for basic emotions, with strongest evidence for the emotions anger and sadness. Poor emotion processing is evident in all three subtypes, although deficits are more widespread than what would be predicted based on studies in healthy cohorts. Studies that include behavioural and imaging data are limited. Future investigations combining these approaches will help improve the understanding of the neural network underlying emotion processing. Presently, longitudinal investigations of emotion processing in FTD are lacking, and studies investigating emotion processing over time are critical to understand the clinical manifestations of disease progression in FTD.


Limbic system Frontal lobe Temporal lobe Dementia Progressive nonfluent aphasia Semantic dementia 



FK is supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA). OP is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council Clinical Career Development Fellowship (APP1022684).


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Neuroscience Research AustraliaRandwickAustralia
  2. 2.School of Medical Sciences, University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  3. 3.ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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