Frontotemporal dementia also called FTD, is a rarer type of dementia caused by a build up of proteins, tau, FUS and TDP-43, in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.

What is frontotemporal dementia

Dementia is a term used to describe a group of symptoms that may include changes in personality, behaviour or mood, memory loss, confusion, and difficulty with day-to-day tasks.

Dementia is caused by different diseases that affect the brain. Frontotemporal dementia, also known as FTD, is a rarer type of dementia. It is thought to account for less than one in 20 of all dementia cases. It typically affects people 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, as well our speech and understanding of words.

In FTD, there is a build-up of proteins in the frontal and temporal lobes. Three proteins involved in FTD are called tau, TDP-43 and FUS. These proteins clump together and damage the brain cells, eventually causing them to die. 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.

Originally called Pick’s disease, FTD is sometimes described as an umbrella term, and 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.

Frontotemporal dementia includes the following:

  • Behavioural variant FTD (bvFTD).
  • Semantic dementia (the word semantic means the meaning of language).
  • Progressive non-fluent aphasia - aphasia is where people have problems speaking and writing.
  • Frontotemporal dementia associated with motor neurone disease.

You can find out more about semantic dementia and progressive non fluent aphasia on our primary progressive aphasia pages here.

What is frontotemporal dementia?

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

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This information was updated in December 2021 and is due for review in January 2024. 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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