What is frontotemporal dementia

Dementia is caused by different diseases that affect the brain, the most common being Alzheimer’s.

Frontotemporal dementia, also known as FTD, is a rare type of dementia. It is thought to account for less than one in 30 dementia cases. Symptoms typically begin between the ages of 45 and 64. However, FTD can affect people younger or older than this.

FTD is caused by damage to cells in areas of the brain called the frontal and temporal lobes. These areas of our brains control our personality, emotions and behaviour. They are also responsible for our speech and understanding of words.

Labelled diagram of a brain, showing that the frontal lobe is at the front of the brain, and the temporal lobe is at the side of the brain, behind the ears.

In FTD, there is a build-up of proteins in the frontal and temporal lobes. Some of the proteins linked to FTD are called tau, TDP-43 and a group called FET proteins. These proteins clump together in and around damaged brain cells. As the damage spreads through different parts of the brain, the symptoms of dementia get worse. So, over time a person with FTD will need more help with everyday life.

FTD is sometimes described as an umbrella term because it can be caused by several different underlying diseases. A doctor may call the underlying diseases their specific names or may describe them all as ‘frontotemporal dementia’, which we do in this booklet.

Frontotemporal dementia includes the following:

  • behavioural variant FTD (bvFTD)
  • semantic dementia (the word ‘semantic’ refers to the meaning of words)
  • progressive non-fluent aphasia (aphasia is where people have problems speaking and writing)
  • frontotemporal dementia with motor neurone disease (FTD-MND).

You can find out more about semantic dementia and progressive non fluent aphasia by clicking the button below.

What is frontotemporal dementia?

This booklet is for anyone who wants to know more about frontotemporal dementia (FTD). This includes people living with FTD, their carers, families and friends.

FTD front cover
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This information was updated in January 2024 and is due for review in January 2026. It was written by Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Information Services team with input from lay and expert reviewers. Please get in touch if you’d like a version with references or in a different format.

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