Reduced tendency to attribute mental states to abstract shapes in behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia links with cerebellar structural integrity

Jan Van den Stock*, Francois-Laurent De Winter, Daphne Stam, Laura Van de Vliet, Yun-An Huang, Eva Dries, Lies Van Assche, Louise Emsell, Filip Bouckaert, Mathieu Vandenbulcke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Web of Science)

Abstract

Theory of mind (ToM) refers to the ability to attribute mental states to others. Behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by profound deficits in social cognition, including ToM. We investigate whether bvFTD affects intention attribution tendency while viewing abstract animations and whether this might represent a primary deficit. A sample of 15 bvFTD patients and 19 matched controls were assessed on cognition and performed an implicit ToM task. They were instructed to describe what they observed in movement patterns displayed by geometrical shapes (triangles). These movement patterns either represented animacy, goal-directed actions or manipulation of mental state (ToM). The responses were scored for both accuracy and intentionality attribution. Using Voxel-Based Morphometry, we investigated the structural neuroanatomy associated with intention attribution tendency. The behavioral results revealed deficits in the bvFTD group on intentionality attribution that were specific for the ToM condition after controlling for global cognitive functioning (MMSE-score), visual attention (TMT B-score), fluid intelligence (RCPMT-score) and confrontation naming (BNT-score). In the bvFTD sample, the intention attribution tendency on the ToM-condition was associated with grey matter volume of a cluster in the cerebellum, spanning the right Crus I, Crus II, VIIIb, IX, left VIIb, IX and vermal IX and X. The results reveal a specific, primary, implicit domain-general ToM deficit in bvFTD that cannot be explained by cognitive dysfunction. Furthermore, the findings point to a contribution of the cerebellum in the social-cognitive phenotype of bvFTD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101770
Number of pages9
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
Volume22
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Theory of mind
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Mentalizing
  • ALZHEIMERS-DISEASE
  • SOCIAL COGNITION
  • EMPATHY DEFICITS
  • FRONTAL VARIANT
  • NEURAL BASES
  • MIND
  • ATROPHY
  • BRAIN
  • PATTERNS
  • EMOTION

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