Hardy, C.J., Buckley, A.H., Downey, L.E., Lehmann, M., Zimmerer, V.C., Varley, R.A., Crutch, S.J., Rohrer, J.D., Warrington, E.K., & Warren, J.D. (2015). The language profile of behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 50(2).
Dementia is still a new area for me. I approach it from a language perspective. While dementias, such as Alzheimer's or, in this case, behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) are not primarily language impairments, they can be associated with particular language profiles. I believe that with further research these profiles will turn out to be unique to the respective pathology. Investigating language in dementias is not just a way to learn more about the pathologies or about how language is anchored in the brain. Linguistic behaviour, in particular naming, memorization and fluency, are substantial in diagnosis.
BvFTD is difficult to diagnose. It manifests most clearly in changes of social behaviour and is easy to confuse with mood disorders such as depression. The paper shows that people with bvFTD also show semantic impairment, with varying severity dependent on the person's genetic makeup.
I helped Chris Hardy and colleagues by running some basic analyses of language samples from people with bvFTD and other dementias, as well as healthy controls.
Current language tests for investigating dementia are mostly very crude, disappointingly so for someone who studies the cognition of language. I am currently working on new tools for analysing language output and continue working with Chris and others.