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Cognitive & Behavioral Neurology:
Experimental Studies

Alterations of the Sense of “Humanness” in Right Hemisphere Predominant Frontotemporal Dementia Patients

Mendez, Mario F MD, PhD; Lim, Gerald T. H MD

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Abstract

Objective: To evaluate the sense of “humanness” in frontotemporal dementia (FTD) patients with right hemispheric involvement.

Background: Early in the course, FTD is often asymmetric, and those with predominant right frontotemporal disease have disproportionate disturbances in social behavior and empathy. A disruption in a sense of humanness may underlie these behavioral disturbances.

Method: Sixteen patients with asymmetric FTD on functional neuroimaging underwent recognition tests of facial masking, human-animal morphing, and facial distortion. Additional tests evaluated facial discrimination and the recognition of famous faces, facial emotions, and animate–inanimate differences.

Results: On the distorted and morphed face tasks, 8 FTD patients with predominant right hemisphere involvement were significantly more likely to call morphed and distorted faces “human” as compared with both 8 FTD patients with predominant left hemisphere involvement and normal controls. The FTD groups did not differ on thresholds for recognizing masked faces or on other face recognition measures.

Conclusions: In FTD, right hemispheric involvement may alter the threshold for judging someone as human independent of the recognition of faces or facial affect. These results suggest that a specific sense of humanness facilitates a person recognition network in the right frontotemporal region of the brain.

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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