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Commentary

Assessment of psychiatric changes in C9ORF72 frontotemporal dementia

Michael Hornberger

Author Affiliations

Neuroscience Research Australia, Sydney, NSW 2031, Australia

Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2031, Australia

ARC Centre of Excellence for Cognition and its Disorders, Sydney, NSW 2031, Australia

Alzheimer's Research & Therapy 2012, 4:49  doi:10.1186/alzrt152


See related research by Downey et al., http://alzres.com/content/4/5/42

Published: 24 December 2012

Abstract

Recent neuroimaging evidence highlights cerebellar atrophy as one feature of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) with C9ORF72 mutation. Interestingly, C9ORF72 patients do not present with classic cerebellar symptoms, such as ataxia, but have instead a higher incidence of psychiatric changes compared to sporadic FTD. To date there exists no objective tool to assess such psychiatric changes due to cerebellar dysfunction. In the previous edition of Alzheimer's Research & Therapy, Downey and colleagues present a novel task, including a new apparatus, that targets such psychiatric disturbances. In the task participants are required to make self-other attributions, which have been shown to be dependent on the cerebellum in functional neuroimaging in healthy subjects. The data Downey and colleagues present on a case of C9ORF72 compared to four age-matched controls reveal that the patient shows impaired judgement only for other induced actions. These findings highlight the sensitivity of such a simple task to tap into potential cerebellar dysfunction in C9ORF72. Future studies are needed to now to determine whether this task is mediated solely via the cerebellum and is disease specific to C9ORF72. Nevertheless, this study is an important first step in the development of cerebellar-specific tasks tapping into psychiatric dysfunction, which will inform future diagnosis and disease management of patients with cerebellar dysfunction, and in particular C9ORF72.