Frontotemporal Dementia and Social Cognition
Making estimations about the attitudes and behaviors of others, requires a number of data to be processed, and a complicated system in the brain to work together. The whole of the areas (such as the amygdala, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, insula, cingulate, fusiform gyrus, and temporoparietal merger) that are functioning actively in our brain while processing a series of cognitive functions, such as understanding the feelings, thoughts, social references, and implications of the people we communicate with, is named social brain, which is also called social cognition.
Some abnormalities could be observed in the social cognition when specific neurodegenerative diseases affect these regions. For instance, cognitive skills are affected in dementia, which is the general name for the conditions when cognitive skills fall below the normal age-related intervals. Nonetheless, based on the type of dementia, the characteristics of the affected cognitive skills may vary. The behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (BvFTD) is a neurodegenerative disease that occurs as a consequence of the constant loss of cells in the frontal and temporal regions of the brain (atrophy), affecting the social cognition at the same time.
While major changes can be observed in the personalities and behaviors of those with BvFTD disorder, the social cognition performances of the patients, as well their skills of recognizing emotions, showing empathy, or comprehending sarcastic words, can be damaged (Baez et al., 2014; Baez et al., 2016). As comprehending whether sarcastic words are real is a complicated task, the brain uses the orbitofrontal cortex, anterior temporal region, insula and amygdala regions for this purpose, and these regions are associated with the “social brain” (Ibañes and Manes, 2012). Developing easy-to-use tests, which can measure how the social cognition performance is affected by the dementia disease that could also affect the social brain regions, also plays a crucial role in diagnosing the disease.
– Baez, S., Manes, F., Huepe, D., Torralva, T., Fiorentino, N., Richter, F., … & Matallana, D. (2014). Primary empathy deficits in frontotemporal dementia. Frontiers in aging neuroscience, 6, 262.
– Baez, S., Morales, J. P., Slachevsky, A., Torralva, T., Matus, C., Manes, F., & Ibanez, A. (2016). Orbitofrontal and limbic signatures of empathic concern and intentional harm in the behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia. Cortex, 75, 20-32.
– Ibañez, A., & Manes, F. (2012). Contextual social cognition and the behavioral variant of frontotemporal dementia. Neurology, 78(17), 1354-1362.