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BACKGROUND: Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a clinically, genetically, and pathologically heterogeneous neurodegenerative disorder. Two subtypes commonly present with a language disorder: semantic dementia (SemD) and progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA). METHODS: Patients meeting consensus criteria for PNFA and SemD who had volumetric MRI of sufficient quality to allow cortical thickness analysis were recruited from a tertiary referral clinic: 44 (11 pathologically confirmed) patients with SemD and 32 (4 pathologically confirmed) patients with PNFA and 29 age-matched and gender-matched healthy controls were recruited. Cortical thickness analysis was performed using the Freesurfer software tools. RESULTS: Patients with SemD had significant cortical thinning in the left temporal lobe, particularly temporal pole, entorhinal cortex, and parahippocampal, fusiform, and inferior temporal gyri. A similar but less extensive pattern of loss was seen in the right temporal lobe and (with increasing severity) also in left orbitofrontal, inferior frontal, insular, and cingulate cortices. Patients with PNFA had involvement particularly of the left superior temporal lobe, inferior frontal lobe, and insula, and (with increasing severity) other areas in the left frontal, lateral temporal, and anterior parietal lobes. Similar patterns were seen in the pathologically confirmed cases. Patterns of cortical thinning differed between groups: SemD had significantly more cortical thinning in the temporal lobes bilaterally while PNFA had significantly more thinning in the frontal and parietal lobes. CONCLUSIONS: The language variants of frontotemporal lobar degeneration have distinctive and significantly different patterns of cortical thinning. Increasing disease severity is associated with spread of cortical thinning and the pattern of spread is consistent with progression of clinical deficits.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1562 - 1569


Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Aging, Aphasia, Primary Progressive, Atrophy, Cerebral Cortex, Dementia, Disease Progression, Female, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Middle Aged, Nerve Net, Predictive Value of Tests, Severity of Illness Index