Brain region implicated in emotional disturbance in dementia patients

July 12, 2013

A study by researchers at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) is the first to demonstrate that patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) lose the emotional content/colour of their memories. These findings explain why FTD patients may not vividly remember an emotionally charged event like a wedding or funeral.

The research team discovered that a region of the brain, called the orbitofrontal cortex, plays a key role in linking emotion and memories.

"This step forward in the mapping of the brain will improve how we diagnose different types of dementia," says the study's lead author, Associate Professor Olivier Piguet.

The fact that we vividly remember events infused with emotion - like birthday parties - is well established. Patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) - a degenerative condition that affects the frontal and of the brain - show profound difficulty understanding and expressing emotion. Yet the extent to which such deficits weaken emotional enhancement of memory remains unknown.

To find out, the NeuRA team showed patients images that prompt an emotional reaction in healthy people. Healthy control subjects and patients with Alzheimer's disease remembered more emotional than neutral images. The FTD patients, however, did not.

Professor Piguet says, "Up until now, we knew that emotional memories were supported by the amygdala, a brain region also involved with . This study is the first to demonstrate the involvement of the in this process. This is an important development in how we understand the relations between emotions and memory and the disturbance of the emotional system in this type of dementia."

NeuRA researcher, Fiona Kumfor, says the findings will help carers better understand why their loved ones may find difficult. "Imagine if you attended the wedding of your daughter, or met your grandchild for the first time, but this event was as memorable as doing the groceries. We have discovered that this is what life is like for patients with FTD," says Fiona.

"This is the first study that has looked at memory and emotion together in FTD and that is exciting. We now have new insight into the disease and can demonstrate that are affected differently, depending on the type of dementia.

This information could help us create diagnostic tools and change how we diagnose certain types of dementias and differentiate between them. We have basically found the source of the deficit driving these impairments in patients, which brings us a step closer to understanding what it means to have FTD," she concluded.

Explore further: Recognition of anger, fear, disgust most affected in dementia

More information: The paper 'The Orbitofrontal Cortex is involved in Emotional Enhancement of Memory' has been published in the journal Brain.

Related Stories

Recognition of anger, fear, disgust most affected in dementia

October 4, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A new study on emotion recognition has shown that people with frontotemporal dementia are more likely to lose the ability to recognise negative emotions, such as anger, fear and disgust, than positive ...

The implications of disease coexistence

November 29, 2011
In order to better counsel patients, it is key for clinicians of different disciplines to be aware of, and diagnose, the 'overlap syndrome' between two medical disorders - ALS and FTD - since it significantly affects patient ...

Study shows emotional contagion increases in Alzheimer's patients

May 28, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers working at the University of California's Memory and Aging Center has found that emotional contagion appears to increase in a linear progression with patients who have Alzheimer's ...

Identification of abnormal protein may help diagnose, treat ALS and frontotemporal dementia

February 12, 2013
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease, and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) are devastating neurodegenerative diseases with no effective treatment. Researchers are beginning to recognize ALS and FTD as ...

Musical study challenges long-held view of left brain-right brain split

June 4, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Ever been stuck in traffic when a feel-good song comes on the radio and suddenly your mood lightens?

Recommended for you

Faulty support cells disrupt communication in brains of people with schizophrenia

July 20, 2017
New research has identified the culprit behind the wiring problems in the brains of people with schizophrenia. When researchers transplanted human brain cells generated from individuals diagnosed with childhood-onset schizophrenia ...

Scientists discover combined sensory map for heat, humidity in fly brain

July 20, 2017
Northwestern University neuroscientists now can visualize how fruit flies sense and process humidity and temperature together through a "sensory map" within their brains, according to new research.

Scientists reveal how patterns of brain activity direct specific body movements

July 20, 2017
New research by Columbia scientists offers fresh insight into how the brain tells the body to move, from simple behaviors like walking, to trained movements that may take years to master. The discovery in mice advances knowledge ...

Team traces masculinization in mice to estrogen receptor in inhibitory neurons

July 20, 2017
Researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have opened a black box in the brain whose contents explain one of the remarkable yet mysterious facts of life.

Speech language therapy delivered through the Internet leads to similar improvements as in-person treatment

July 20, 2017
Telerehabilitation helps healthcare professionals reach more patients in need, but some worry it doesn't offer the same quality of care as in-person treatment. This isn't the case, according to recent research by Baycrest.

New study reveals contrasts in how groups of neurons function during decision making

July 19, 2017
By training mice to perform a sound identification task in a virtual reality maze, researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) have identified striking contrasts in how groups of neurons ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.