Frontotemporal dementia

What is frontotemporal dementia?

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is one of the less common types of dementia. The term covers a wide range of different conditions. It is sometimes called Pick’s disease or frontal lobe dementia. This page explains what FTD is, its symptoms, and who gets it. It also describes how it is diagnosed and the treatment and support that is available.

The word ‘frontotemporal’ refers to the lobes of the brain that are damaged in this type of dementia. The frontal lobes of the brain, found behind the forehead, deal with behaviour, problem-solving, planning and the control of emotions. An area of usually the left frontal lobe also controls speech.

The temporal lobes – on either side of the brain – have several roles. The left temporal lobe usually deals with the meaning of words and the names of objects. The right temporal lobe is usually involved in recognising faces and familiar objects. For more see the brain and dementia.

Frontotemporal dementia occurs when nerve cells in the frontal and/or temporal lobes of the brain die, and the pathways that connect the lobes change. Some of the chemical messengers that transmit signals between nerve cells are also lost. Over time, as more and more nerve cells die, the brain tissue in the frontal and temporal lobes shrinks.

When the frontal and/or temporal lobes are damaged in this way, this causes the symptoms of FTD. These include changes in personality and behaviour, and difficulties with language. These symptoms are different from the memory loss often associated with more common types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease. As FTD is a less common form of dementia, many people (including some health professionals) may not have heard of it.

This information is also available as British Sign Language video. To watch it, go to the accessible versions page at the end.