Wednesday, November 21, 2012

FTD and Autism

The FTD and autism correlation question comes up frequently. I also notice family members of FTD patients frequently mention they have children with autism.  

Last week I posed the question to the AFTD helpline to see if there was any research investigating a possible relationship between FTD and Autism. The AFTD helpline is a free service for FTD Patients, Caregivers and the public to get accurate answers to FTD questions. The following answer was given to me by Sharon Denny, the AFTD Program Director: 

AFTD Helpline - 866-507-7222

There is certainly similarity between some of social behavior in bvFTD and in autism (withdrawal, emotional blunting, social inappropriateness, lack of empathy).  The similarity has prompted researchers to study how social thinking and behavior are controlled in the brain.  However, there is no evidence that directly links the disorders.  Autism is a developmental disability that begins in childhood and FTD a neurodegenerative disease with an adult onset.  

Researchers are looking into similarities in social behavior.  Schizophrenia has some similar symptoms and is another area of research.   If scientists can understand what cells, chemical transmitters, etc. contribute to the behaviors it will advance understanding and possibly in time treatment for various disorders.

One of the main areas of interest is something called von Economo neurons (VEN) which are brain cells that are involved in social behavior. Only higher mammals and humans have them and they ate found in the brain's frontal love in the anterior cingulate and frontal insular cortex areas. These areas are involved in autism, and vulnerable in bvFTD, but much less so in Alzheimer's.

There is also evidence that oxytocin (a hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain) shows some benefit on social behavior in autism. An initial study of oxytocin in Jan 2012 with people with FTD showed possible temporary benefit in reduction of social behavior symptoms. This needs to undergo more research though before oxytocin would be prescribed as a treatment. 

These examples are two ways that researchers are trying to learn why and how social thinking and behavior symptoms occur in different disorders. It's interesting stuff, but does not indicate that the various disorders are linked through a common cause, gene, or pathology. 

Sharon Denny
Program Director


Thanksgiving's has arrived and I'm trying to figure out what there is to be thankful for: Absolutely nothing.

Just kidding!!!

It's amazing when you have almost nothing left to lose, how much there is to gain.

I've had to face many challenges over the last year. Amazingly, the year is coming to an end and I'm coming out on top. I've needed help in many areas and magically it appeared. Random acts of kindness from people who I know and many from people I've never met or spoken to. 

Then there's my "white whale" FTD. FTD is still hanging out, but I'm still ruling Howard's Brain. Where FTD is progressing, it's slow enough to hopefully keep me around for many a year. 

Somehow I just lost the rest of what I wrote here. (NAFW) is in effect and I didn't curse out loud. Oh well, there will always be a tomorrow.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!



  1. Howard, I like what you wrote. I want to wish you a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving. I am thankful that I have found your site. You have helped me in many ways.
    Peace my friend:O)

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.