Affective mentalizing and brain activity at rest in the behavioral variant of frontotemporal dementia

Silvia P. Caminiti, Nicola Canessa, Chiara Cerami, Alessandra Dodich, Chiara Crespi, Sandro Iannaccone, Alessandra Marcone, Andrea Falini, Stefano F. Cappa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background bvFTD patients display an impairment in the attribution of cognitive and affective states to others, reflecting GM atrophy in brain regions associated with social cognition, such as amygdala, superior temporal cortex and posterior insula. Distinctive patterns of abnormal brain functioning at rest have been reported in bvFTD, but their relationship with defective attribution of affective states has not been investigated. Objective To investigate the relationship among resting-state brain activity, gray matter (GM) atrophy and the attribution of mental states in the behavioral variant of fronto-temporal degeneration (bvFTD). Methods We compared 12 bvFTD patients with 30 age- and education-matched healthy controls on a) performance in a task requiring the attribution of affective vs. cognitive mental states; b) metrics of resting-state activity in known functional networks; and c) the relationship between task-performances and resting-state metrics. In addition, we assessed a connection between abnormal resting-state metrics and GM atrophy. Results Compared with controls, bvFTD patients showed a reduction of intra-network coherent activity in several components, as well as decreased strength of activation in networks related to attentional processing. Anomalous resting-state activity involved networks which also displayed a significant reduction of GM density. In patients, compared with controls, higher affective mentalizing performance correlated with stronger functional connectivity between medial prefrontal sectors of the default-mode and attentional/performance monitoring networks, as well as with increased coherent activity in components of the executive, sensorimotor and fronto-limbic networks. Conclusions Some of the observed effects may reflect specific compensatory mechanisms for the atrophic changes involving regions in charge of affective mentalizing. The analysis of specific resting-state networks thus highlights an intermediate level of analysis between abnormal brain structure and impaired behavioral performance in bvFTD, reflecting both dysfunction and compensation mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)484-497
Number of pages14
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
Publication statusPublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neurology


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