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The first anti-tau drug trial: davunetide is not an effective treatment for progressive supranuclear palsy

Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) is a neurodegenerative disease that causes slowed and stiff movements, frequent falls and difficulty with voluntary eye movement. Clumps of the protein called tau are found in the brain cells of patients with PSP. Tau protein is important for stabilizing microtubules, which comprise the cell’s skeleton and are involved in transporting […]


Von Economo neurons – the brain cells that make us social animals and how they are lost in FTD

Von Economo neurons (VENs) are large brain cells shaped like spindles and are found in the more anterior parts of the brain such as the frontal lobe, insula and anterior cingulate. They are not found in all animals but only in those that are more ‘social’ such as humans, great apes, whales and dolphins. The […]


The biology behind behavioural changes in frontotemporal dementia

What is the molecular basis for the abnormal behaviour seen in FTD? Scientists of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester have found a biological explanation for the behavioural changes that some people with frontotemporal dementia experience. The team from the University of Massachusetts did this by studying the behaviour of mice with a […]


False negatives – an alternative method detects missed carriers of C9ORF72 expansions

Scientists from the University of Manchester have recently reported a group of people carrying the C9ORF72 gene expansion (where part of the gene is repeated hundreds or thousands of times) who had previously been missed by standard genetic testing. Around a third of people with FTD carry an inherited genetic mutation that leads to the […]


C9ORF72 expansions cause FTD by the production of toxic repeat proteins

Abnormalities in the C9ORF72 gene are one of the major genetic causes of FTD. Until recently it has not been clear how these expansions (where part of the gene is repeated hundreds or thousands of times) cause FTD. However, in the last few months, several independent research groups have demonstrated the toxicity of a specific […]


Towards a new understanding of social dysfunction in MND/ALS

Humans are essentially social beings. In everyday life, we regularly infer the thoughts, feelings, and intentions of others, an ability known as theory of mind. This unique aptitude to consider perspectives distinct from our own provides the foundation for a host of social interactions, enabling us to predict behaviour based on the mental states of […]

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Highlights of the 9th International Conference on FTD: 23rd-25th October 2014

FTD researchers have recently returned from Vancouver where they attended the biennial international FTD conference. The meeting has slowly grown over the years with increasing interest in the FTD field, and nearly 600 people attended the conference from around 30 countries and a wide variety of research was presented from new brain imaging markers through […]


Sniffing out FTD: can a test of smell differentiate FTD from mood disorders?

In a study published in the journal Applied Neuropsychology, Heyanka and colleagues studied the sense of smell in patients with frontotemporal dementia and elderly patients with major depression, to determine if this simple test can differentiate between the two groups. The early stages of FTD can sometimes present in a similar fashion to depressive disorders […]


Why do people with FTD lose their ability to live and function independently?

The impact of FTD on everyday living is very well known to the families of those affected by it. As the disease progresses, the person needs support to deal with complex tasks such as preparing meals, managing their finances, doing the shopping, amongst other daily chores. For the behavioural form of the disease, other simpler […]


The 4th FTDUK meeting

Last week, FTD researchers from around the UK gathered at UCL Institute of Neurology for the 4th annual FTDUK meeting. What started as a humble gathering of 50 people in 2011 has grown to around 150 researchers eager to find out the latest updates on FTD research. FTD-UK was founded by Dr Jon Rohrer, Dr […]


Is memory affected in behavioural variant FTD?

Episodic memory is our everyday memory, which we use for recalling life’s events. Deficits in episodic memory are a common symptom in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), as most AD patients show difficulty in recalling past events and their details. By contrast, behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) patients have been thought to show relatively intact episodic memory. […]


An international genetic study implicates a role for the immune system in FTD

In a tour de force, 44 international research groups worked together to perform a genome-wide association study to identify novel genetic risk factors for FTD using DNA samples from 3526 patients with FTD and 9402 healthy control individuals. Their work suggests that the immune system and biological pathways involved in the breakdown of proteins and […]