Dementia can be expressed in different forms. The most famous one is Alzheimer’s disease. The less known one is a frontotemporal dementia, when the areas of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain shrink. The symptoms vary, depending on which lobe of the brain is affected. Some people have dramatic changes in their personality, others become socially inappropriate or loose their ability to use language properly. In contrast to Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia tends to occur at a younger age, somewhere between the ages of 40 and 65.

A recent Australian study found out that you can recognize the early signs of frontotemporal dementia by a profound loss of ability to experience pleasure (think of a pleasure from a good talk or a beautiful surroundings).

The researchers discovered that people with frontotemporal dementia have degeneration of “hotspots” in their brain (namely frontostriatal brain regions), where the ‘pleasure center’ is situated. Because of this degeneration, people with frontotemporal dementia are not able to experience pleasure from their activities.

Interestingly, a profound loss of pleasure (in other words, anhedonia) was not noticed in a group of participants with Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting that anhedonia is specific to frontotemporal dementia.

Anhedonia is also common in people with depression, apathy, bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, people with these brain diseases don’t have neural changes in the same brain areas as do people with frontotemporal dementia.

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Tatsiana Haponava, PhD

a certified nutrition coach, educator and researcher with a PhD degree

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