Frontotemporal Dementia Caregiver Support Center

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The information on this page is for reference and educational purposes. There is no substitute for seeing a doctor.

FTD Glossary

This glossary was created to help understand some of the words you may read and hear when dealing with Frontotemporal Dementia issues.

I have taken the Alzheimer's Disease Glossary of Common Terminology from University of Pennsylvania and the glossary from the Alzheimer's Association to make the start of the FTD Glossary. From here I have added words that I thought needed definition.

If you find a word that is about FTD and is not in this list let me know. I will add it and try to give an example when ever possible.

Listed below are links to Medical Dictionaries that you may find useful.

Medical Dictionaries

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Click on a letter above to move to that section of the glossary.



Level at which certain actions and activities can be carried out.



A neurotransmitter that appears to be involved in learning and memory. Acetylcholine is severely diminished in the brains of persons with Alzheimer’s disease.


Activities of daily living (ADLs)

Activities necessary for everyday living, such as eating, bathing, grooming, dressing and toileting. Also referred to as basic activities of daily living (BADLs). Differs from instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs).


Adult day care

A place where adults living at home can go during the day for activities, socializing, education, and even health care. These services can provide valuable respite time for a caregiver.


Adult Day Services

Programs that provide participants with opportunities to interact with others, usually in a community center or facility. Staff lead various activities such as music programs and support groups. Transportation is often provided.


Advance directive

A legal document with written instructions signed by the patient (or the patient's next of kin if the patient cannot sign) as to what type of care measures and services are or are not to be provided to prolong life in the event of a life-threatening illness. Also known as durable power of attorney.


Adverse reaction

An unexpected effect of drug treatment that may range from trivial to serious or life-threatening, such as an allergic reaction.


Age-matched controls

See controls.



The individual—usually a trusted family member or friend—authorized by a power of attorney to make legal decisions for another individual. In scientific terms, “agent” sometimes refers to a drug as well.



Hitting, pushing, or threatening behavior that commonly occurs when a caregiver attempts to help an individual with dementia with daily activities, such as dressing. It is important to control such behavior because aggressive persons can cause injury to themselves and others.



Vocal or motor behavior (screaming, shouting, complaining, moaning, cursing, pacing, fidgeting, wandering, etc.) that is disruptive, unsafe, or interferes with the delivery of care in a particular environment. An abnormal behavior is considered agitation only if it poses risk or discomfort to the individual with dementia or his/her caregiver. Agitation can be a nonspecific symptom of one or more physical or psychological problems (e.g., headache, depression).



Total or partial loss of the ability to recognize familiar persons or objects.


Alien Hand Syndrome

An impairment using limbs in a meaningful manner. Usually seen in Corticobasal Degeneration (CBD).



One of two or more alternative forms of a gene; for example, one allele of the gene for eye color codes for blue eyes, while another allele codes for brown eyes.


Alzheimer’s disease (AD)

A degenerative neurological disease affecting older people with a primary symptom of dementia.



The ability to walk and move about freely.


Amino Acids

The basic building blocks of proteins. Genes contain the code fassembling protein of the 20 amino acids necessary for human growth and function.



A protein deposit associated with tissue degeneration; amyloid is found in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s. See beta-amyloid protein also;


Amyloid Plaque

Abnormal cluster of dead and dying nerve cells, other brain cells, and amyloid protein fragments. Amyloid plaques are one of the characteristic structural abnormalities found in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s. Upon autopsy, the presence of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles is used to positively diagnose Alzheimer’s.


amyloid precursor protein (APP)

A protein found in the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, spleen, and intestines. The normal function of APP in the body is unknown. In Alzheimer’s disease, APP is abnormally processed and converted to beta amyloid protein. Beta amyloid is the protein deposited in amyloid plaques.


Amyloid plaque

A characteristic pathological finding in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients consisting of aggregations of beta-amyloid protein.


animal models

Normal animals modified mechanically, genetically or chemically, used to demonstrate all or part of the characteristics of a disease. With models, researchers can study the mechanisms of a disease and test therapies.



The event happening prior to a behavior. Medical professional may use this term to define a triggering event in a behavior. For example, when my brother sees a fish or anything dealing with fishing, he will tell you the same story about taking is daughters fishing.



Specialized proteins produced by the cells of the immune system that counteract a specific foreign substance. The production of antibodies is the first line of defense in the body’s immune response.


anti-inflammatory drugs

Drugs that reduce inflammation by modifying the body’s immune response.



A feeling of apprehension, fear, nervousness, or dread accompanied by restlessness or tension.



A class of drugs frequently prescribed to patients with Alzheimer’s disease, which have some modest positive effects for some patients.


Anti-inflammatory drugs

A class of drugs including aspirin, ibuprofen.



A speech problem that sometimes occurs to patients with dementia or other cognitive illnesses.



See Apathy.


  • having little or no interest or concern
  • Loss of drive, social withdrawal, lack of concern and empathy for others
  • Lack of interest, concern, or emotion.
  • Patients may show a decrease in their drive and motivation
  • An indifference toward events and the surrounding environment can be marked by reduced initiative, and lack of motivation.
  • A state of not caring; not wanting to know; complacency; indifference; to ignore; disinterested in contemplation; anesthetized by popular culture; a postmodern intellectual narcosis; compassion fatigue; too lazy; too busy; self-indulgence; limited choices in work and leisure-time; non-reflection, non-deliberation and subconscious blocking of distressing information. Apathy is less ethically excusable than ignorance. ...
  • Synonyms - Insensibility; unfeelingness; indifference; unconcern; stoicism; supineness; sluggishness.



Difficulty understanding the speech of  others and/or expressing oneself verbally


Apolipoprotein E (apoE)

A protein whose main function is to transport cholesterol. The gene for apoE is on chromosome 19. There are three forms of apoE: E2, E3, E4. E4 is associated with about 60% of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease and is considered a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.



Loss of the ability to sequence, coordinate, and execute certain purposeful movements and gestures in the absence of motor weakness, paralysis, or sensory impairments. Apraxia is thought to result from damage to the cerebral cortex, such as due to stroke, brain tumors, head injury, or infection. It may also occur as a result of impaired development of the cortex as in certain neurodevelopmental disorders.



Programmed cell death.



See amyloid precursor protein.



An anticholinesterase drug whose generic name is donepezil.


Art therapy

Activities that allow people with dementia opportunities to express their feelings creatively through art.



Is a disease affecting the small blood vessels



The evaluation or testing of a substance for toxicity, impurities, or other variables.



The health care team's formulation of a patient's level of illness, created after evaluation of the patient's signs, symptoms and function.


Assisted living

A residential care setting that combines housing, support service and health care for people typically in the early or middle stages of dementia.



Shrinking of tissue, in FTD disease the brain tissue usually is found to be atrophied.



One of seven cognitive functions of the brain. Refers to a person's ability to stay alert and focused on one particular activity. This cognitive has to be fully functionally for the pFTD will do well in the other cognitive functions.



A person’s ability to make independent choices.



Examination of a body organ and tissue after death. Autopsy is often performed (upon request) in order to confirm diagnosis of FTD disease.


Autosomal Dominant

Means it runs in families. It is known that each family member whose parent has the condition has a 50% chance of contracting the same condition and passing it on to their children with the same possibility whether male or female.



Is a psychological state characterized by general lack of desire, motivation, and persistence. Those suffering from avolition will not start or complete any major tasks.


The arm of a nerve cell that normally transmits outgoing signals from one cell body to another. Each nerve cell has one axon, which can be relatively short in the brain but can be up to three feet long in other parts of the body.


Basic activities of daily living (BADLs)

See activities of daily living (ADLs)


behavioral symptoms

In dementia, symptoms that relate to action or emotion, such as wandering, depression, anxiety,hostility, and sleep disturbances.



An individual named in a will who is designated to receive all or part of an estate upon the death of a will maker.


Beta-amyloid protein

A substance that can be measured in cerebrospinal fluid (collected by lumbar puncture), finding a low level supports the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, post-mortem examination of Alzheimer’s disease patients' brains have unusual collections of beta-amyloid proteins, which may or may not play a role in the disease process.


Binswanger’s disease

A type of dementia associated with stroke-related changes in the brain.



Used to indicate or measure a biological process (for instance, levels of a specific protein in blood or spinal fluid, genetic mutations, or brain abnormalities observed in a PET scan or other imaging test). Detecting biomarkers specific to a disease can aid in the identification, diagnosis, and treatment of affected individuals and people who may be at risk but do not yet exhibit symptoms.


Biphasic Change

A biphasic system is one which has two phases. For example in chemistry, when oil and water are poured into a beaker, they form a biphasic system.


blood-brain barrier

The selective barrier that controls the entry of substances from the blood into the brain.


Boston naming test

A type of psychometric test, performed by a health care professional.



Abnormal slowness of muscular movement.



One of the two components of the central nervous system, the brain is the center of thought and emotion. It is responsible for the coordination and control of bodily activities, and the interpretation of information from the senses (sight, hearing, smell, etc.). The other component of the central nervous system is the spinal cord.


Brain Stem

Connects the brain with the spinal cord. Without the brainstem we wouldn't be able to move or feel anything



Commonest form of hereditary vascular dementia. Cadasil stands for Cerebral Autosomal Dominant Arteriopathy with Sub-cortical Infarcts and Leukoencephalopathy.



An element taken in through the diet that is essential for a variety of bodily functions, such as neurotransmission, muscle contraction, and proper heart function. Imbalances of calcium can lead to many health problems and can cause nerve cell death.


calcium channel blocker

A drug that blocks the entry of calcium into cells, thereby reducing activities that require calcium, such as neurotransmission. Calcium channel blockers are used primarily in the treatment of certain heart conditions but are being studied as potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.



One of seven different cognitive functions of the brain. FTD does not affect is part of the brain.



The person or persons who provide assistance to a patient in performing the BADLs, IADLs and other support as needed. Often a dementia patient's primary caregiver is the patient's spouse, sibling or offspring.


care planning

A written action plan containing strategies for delivering care that address an individual’s specific needs or problems.


Case management

Coordination of a care plan for a patient, often performed by a social worker or other health care professional. Dementia patients often require case management so that they receive the best care from the multiple health care professionals involved.


Cat Scan

See Computed tomography (CT) scan below.



The basic unit of human tissues. In the brain and nervous system important cells are the neuronal cells, which make up the nerves and brain.


cell body

In nerve cells, the central portion from which axons and dendrites sprout. The cell body controls the life-sustaining functions of a nerve cell.


cell culture

Cells grown in a test tube or other laboratory device for experimental purposes.


cell membrane

The outer boundary of the cell. The cell membrane helps control what substances enter or exit the cell.


Central Nervous System (CNS)

The part of the human nervous system consisting of the brain and the spinal cord.



Means it has to do with the brain.

cerebral cortex

The outer layer of the brain, consisting of nerve cells and the pathways that connect them. The cerebral cortex is the part of the brain in which thought processes take place. In Alzheimer’s disease, nerve cells in the cerebral cortex degenerate and die.


Cerebrospinal fluid

The fluid surrounding the brain, contains substances that when analyzed can help in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Collected by lumbar puncture.



This is the term for the entire cerebral cortex (outside of the brain). The cerebrum is responsible for many aspects of thinking, including memory, problem solving, language function, personality, mood, and response to different sensory signals from the world around us. It also plays a role in movement and in feeling the senses. It is highly developed in humans, but more rudimentary in animals.



Coordinates, smoothes out, and balances movement to enable individuals to stand, walk, and use their arms.



A natural substance required by the body that is obtained from various foods, such as eggs; an essential component of acetylcholine.


choline acetyltransferase (CAT)

An enzyme that controls the production of acetylcholine; appears to be depleted in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.


cholinergic system

The system of nerve cells that uses acetylcholine as its neurotransmitter and is damaged in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s.



An enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine, into active parts that can be recycled.


cholinesterase inhibitor

Cholinesterase inhibitors are designed to increase levels of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger involved in memory, judgment and other thought processes. Acetylcholine is released by certain brain cells to carry messages to other cells. After a message reaches the receiving cell, various other chemicals, including one called acetylcholinesterase, break acetylcholine down so it can be recycled.

Donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon) and Galantamine (Reminyl and now Razadyne) are some prescription drugs used as Cholinesterase inhibitors.



The structures within cells made up of DNA. Each chromosome carries many individual genes. Normally, human cells contain 22 pairs of chromosomes and one X and one Y or two X chromosomes depending on gender.


Clinical trials

Organized studies that test the value of various treatments, such as drugs or surgery, in human beings.


coexisting illness

A medical condition that exists simultaneously with another, such as arthritis and dementia.



An anticholinesterase drug whose generic name is tacrine.



Brain functions involving, thinking, remembering, learning, reasoning, and planning.


cognitive abilities

Mental abilities such as judgment, memory, learning, comprehension, and reasoning.


Cognitive symptoms

The symptoms that relate to loss of thought processes, such as learning, comprehension, memory, reasoning, and judgment.



Incidents of aggression.



A person’s ability to make informed choices.


Computed tomography (CT) scan

(pronounced "cat scan") - A type of X-ray that can give a health care professional two and three dimensional views of an internal organ or bodily tissues. In dementia patients, CT scans of the brain are sometimes used to support the diagnosis.



In some states, the guardian who manages an individual’s assets.


continuum of care

Care services available to assist individuals throughout the course of the disease.



In a clinical trial, these are the people who receive the treatment against which the experimental treatment is being tested. Often the controls receive a placebo or the current standard treatment for the condition being investigated.


Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)

A rare, ultimately fatal disorder of infectious or genetic origin that typically causes memory failure and behavioral changes. A recently identified form called “variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD)” is the human disorder thought to be caused by eating meat from cattle affected by “mad cow disease” (bovine spongiform encephalopathy). VCJD tends to appear in much younger individuals than those affected by sporadic or inherited Creutzfeldt-Jakob.



The process of providing cues, prompts, hints, and other meaningful information, direction, or instruction to aid a person who is experiencing memory difficulties.



Physical and/or cognitive skills or abilities that a person has lost, has difficulty with, or can no longer perform due to his or her dementia.



A temporary condition with rapid onset consisting of cognitive dysfunction, different from dementia in its time course.



A misperception of reality, patients with an altered mental status can suffer from delusions.



The loss of intellectual functions (such as thinking, remembering, and reasoning) of sufficient severity to interfere with a person’s daily functioning. Dementia is not a disease itself but rather a group of symptoms that may accompany certain diseases or conditions. Symptoms may also include changes in personality, mood, and behavior. Dementia is irreversible when caused by disease or injury but may be reversible when caused by drugs, alcohol, hormone or vitamin imbalances, or depression.



Skilled in working with people with dementia and their caregivers, knowledgeable about the kinds of services that may help them, and aware of which agencies and individuals provide such services.


Dementia Lacking Distinct Histopathology

Is characterized by frontotemporal atrophy without specific inclusion-types or diagnostic markers, therefore the term "dementia lacking distinct histopathology".



Services that are provided specifically for people with dementia.



Branched extensions of the nerve cell body that receive signals from other nerve cells. Each nerve cell usually has many dendrites.



The determination of the nature of a disease. In the case of dementia a definite diagnosis is only possible after an autopsy. However, health care professionals often speak of a diagnosis of probable FTD when they think there is a high likelihood that the post-mortem findings will show FTD.


Disinhibited behavior

The American Psychiatric Association defines disinhibited behavior for some individuals with dementia to include making inappropriate jokes, neglecting personal hygiene, exhibiting undue familiarity with strangers, or disregarding conventional rules of social conduct. Occasionally, they may harm others by striking out. Suicidal behavior may occur, especially in mildly impaired individuals, who are more likely to have insight into their deficits and to be capable of formulating (and carrying out) a plan of action. Anxiety is fairly common, and some patients manifest "catastrophic reactions," overwhelming emotional responses to relatively minor stressors, such as changes in routine or environment. Depressed mood, with or without neurovegetative changes, is quite common, as are sleep disturbances independent of depression. Delusions can occur, especially those involving themes of persecution (e.g., the belief that misplaced possessions have been stolen). Misidentifications of familiar people as unfamiliar (or vice versa) frequently occur. Hallucinations can occur in all sensory modalities, but visual hallucinations are most common. Some patients exhibit a peak period of agitation (or other behavioral disturbances) during the evening hours, which is sometimes referred to as "sundowning."

Disinhibited behavior is behavior that is impulsive or otherwise inappropriate. For instance, when someone is disinhibited they are more likely to speak too quickly - before they've had a chance to think things through. In the medical sense, this type of behavior is not caused by youth or "immaturity."


Disinhibition of social norms

Doesn't care what others think



A cognitive disability in which the senses of time, direction and recognition become difficult to distinguish.



Dementia with Lewy bodies



Dementia Lacking distinctive histology. Alzheimer Europe offers a whole page about this. These FTD are also named FTD non-Alheimer, non-Pick, to emphasize that there are no accumulation of tau proteins. To review more about this at the Alzheimer Europe click here.


DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid)

The basis of all genetic material. Nucleotides are the building blocks of DNA. Patterns of nucleotides represent particular genes. For example, ATTGCCA is gene 1; GGTACCATA is gene 2.



An anticholinesterase drug, generic for Aricept


Double-blind, placebo-controlled study

A research procedure in which neither researchers nor patients know who is receiving the experimental substance or treatment and who is receiving a placebo. Research studies using this design are usually considered to return the most easily interpretable and reliable results.


Down syndrome

A syndrome that causes slowed growth, abnormal facial features, and mental retardation. Down syndrome is caused by an extra copy of all or part of chromosome 21. Most individuals with Down syndrome develop Alzheimer’s disease in adulthood.


Durable power of attorney

A legal document that allows an individual (the principal) an opportunity to authorize an agent (usually a trusted family member or friend) to make legal decisions for when the person is no longer able to do so themselves.In some states it is called advance directive.


Durable power of attorney for health care

A legal document that allows an individual to appoint an agent to make all decisions regarding health care, including choices regarding health care providers, medical treatment, and, in the later stages of the disease, end-of-life decisions



An isolated dysexecutive syndrome which is a less commonly documented involving a motor-speech disorder and poor planning and organization. Sometimes this is called Speech Apraxia.



Dysphagia is a Greek word that means disordered eating. Dysphagia typically refers to difficulty in eating as a result of disruption in the swallowing process. Dysphagia can be a serious threat to one's health because of the risk of aspiration pneumonia, malnutrition, dehydration, weight loss, and airway obstruction. A number of etiologies have been attributed to dysphagia in populations with neurologic and nonneurologic conditions.


Dysexecutive Impaired executive abilities, usually resulting from damage to the frontal lobes. Executive abilities including attention and concentration, planning and initiation, problem solving and monitoring of goal-directed activities.
early stage

The beginning stages of FTD when an individual experiences very mild to moderate cognitive impairments.


Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease

A type of Alzheimer’s disease in which individuals are diagnosed with AD before the age of 65. Approximately 1% to 10% of AD patients have early-onset. Early-onset AD is associated with mutations in size=2>genes located on chromosomes 1, 14 and 21.



Mindlessly repeating a phrase that has just been uttered.



Mindlessly repeating a gesture


elder law attorney

An attorney who practices in the area of elder law, a specialized area of law focusing on issues that typically affect older adults.


electron microscope

A powerful microscope that employs a stream of electrons to magnify an image.


  • understanding another person's feelings by remembering or imagining being in a similar situation.
  • the capacity to feel emotions similar to those felt by another person.
  • Demonstrating an understanding of a person's point of view and feelings about a situation by using phrases such as "I can imagine this must be very upsetting".
  • feeling others' emotions



Physical and interpersonal surroundings that can affect mood and behaviors in people with dementia.


A protein produced by living organisms that promotes or otherwise influences chemical reactions.


A hormone produced by the ovaries and testes . It stimulates the development of secondary sexual characteristics and induces menstruation in women. Estrogen is important for the maintenance of normal brain function and development of nerve cells. Estrogen is used therapeutically to treat breast and prostate cancer, osteoporosis, and to relieve the discomforts of menopause. Recent research suggests that estrogen may be beneficial in treating Alzheimer’s disease.

Executive function

The ability to plan actions and change plans when adaptation is necessary


Overstimulation of nerve cells by nerve impulses. Excitotoxicity often leads to cell damage or death.



The individual named in a will who manages the estate of a deceased individual.



The act, state, or habit of being predominantly concerned with and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self-Interest in or behavior directed toward others or one's environment rather than oneself. The act, state, or habit of being predominantly concerned with and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self

Introversion/extroversion is normally measured by self-report. For example, a questionnaire might ask if you see yourself as someone who:

  • is the life of the party
  • is skilled in handling social situations
  • doesn't like to draw attention to yourself
  • doesn't talk a lot

Agreeing with the first two questions would increase the extroversion score, while agreeing with the last two questions would push the score towards the introversion end of the scale. Self-report questionnaires have obvious limitations in that people may misrepresent themselves either intentionally or through lack of self-knowledge.


Familial FTD disease

Categorization of persons with Frontotemporal Dementia who have had other members of their immediate family diagnosed with the disease.


fatty acids

Acids within the body derived from the breakdown of fats


Free radicals

Highly toxic molecules capable of causing damage in brain and other tissue. Free radicals are common by-products of normal chemical reactions occurring in cells. The body has several mechanisms to deactivate free-radicals.


free-standing, dementia-specific care center

A facility solely dedicated to the care of people with dementia. This building can sometimes be part of a larger campus.


Frontal Dysexecutive Syndrome  
Frontal Executive Function

One of seven different cognitive functions of the brain.



See Frontotemporal Dementia


Frontal Lobe

This part of the brain controls our ability to use words and speech (the left side) and determines how we react to situations emotionally. The frontal lobes are also important for energy, problem solving, mood, judgment, inhibiting impulses and for individual personality.


Frontal Lobe Dementia

See Frontotemporal Dementia

Frontotemporal Dementia

Frontotemporal dementias selectively affect the frontal lobe of the brain. The disease may then extend backward to the temporal lobe. There are two main types: Pick's disease, which has been recognized for many years, and Dementia of the Frontal Lobe Type (DFLT), more recently described. The pathology of these two conditions is different although the clinical manifestations are similar.


Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration

See Frontotemporal Dementia.



See Frontotemporal Dementia.



Frontotemporal Dementia and motor neuron disease



Frontotemporal Lobe Dementia or Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration. See Frontotemporal Dementia



A person’s manner of walking. People in the later stages of dementia often have "reduced gait," meaning they may lose the ability to lift their feet as they walk.



The basic unit of heredity; a section of DNA coding for a particular trait.


Gene linkage

A group of genes located closely together on a chromosome. Used by researchers to related diseases to specific genes. A group of genes located closely together on a chromosome. Used by researchers to related diseases to specific genes.


Gene regulation

The control of the rate or manner in which a gene is expressed as a protein.


Genetic susceptibility

The state of being more likely than the average person to develop a disease as a result of genetics.



All the genes of an organism. The Human Genome Project is currently trying to map all of the genes of the human genome by the year 2003.



A simple sugar that is a major energy source for all cellular and bodily functions. Glucose is obtained through the breakdown, or metabolism, of food in the digestive system.



An amino acid neurotransmitter normally involved in learning and memory. Under certain circumstances it can be an excitotoxicity and appears to cause nerve cell death in a variety of neurodegenerative disorders.



An individual appointed by the courts who is authorized to make legal and financial decisions for another individual.



A sensory experience in which a person can see, hear, smell, taste, or feel something that isn’t there.



A part of the brain that is important for learning and memory.



Collecting and putting things away in a guarded manner.


Home care

A choice that patients and families can make to provide an dementia patient with the care they need at home by bringing aides and health care professionals into the patient's home.



Philosophy and approach to providing comfort and care at life’s end rather than heroic lifesaving measures.


Huntington’s disease

An inherited, degenerative brain disease affecting the mind and body, characterized by intellectual decline and involuntary movement of limbs.


Hyperoral behavior

Hyperoral behaviors include overeating, dietary compulsions, in which the person restricts himself to eating only specific foods (such as a certain flavor of Lifesaver, or eating food only from one fast food restaurant), or attempts to consume inedible objects. Patients may consume excessive amounts of liquids, alcohol and cigarettes.


Hypersexual Behavior

Can include sexual jokes; inappropriate sexual comments; a fetish with a movie star; may have a promiscuous sexual demands with strangers; unsatisfied sexual demands of spouses.



Decreased perfusion of blood through an organ, as in hypovolemic shock; if prolonged it may result in permanent cellular dysfunction and death.



The act of inhibiting or the state of being inhibited.

immune system

A system of cells that protect a person from bacteria, viruses, toxins, and other foreign substances that enter the body.



See prevalence



Loss of bladder and/or bowel control.



See incontinence.



Unable to move or act. Maybe sluggish in action or motion; lethargic.



Means areas of tissue that have died because of lack of oxygen reaching parts of the brain supplied by these damaged vessels


Inflammatory response

The immune system’s normal response to tissue injury or abnormal stimulation caused by a physical, chemical, or biological substance. Immune system cells, if abnormally stimulated, can often cause further tissue damage while responding to the injured site.


Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs)

Secondary level of activities important to daily living, such as cooking, writing, driving, using the telephone, paying bills, and shopping. (Different from ADLs, such as eating, dressing, and bathing)


Irreversible dementias

Known as degenerative dementias, and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.  There are a number of other degenerative dementias, however, that may look like Alzheimer’s, but have distinct or different features which need special attention and different treatment.



One of seven different cognitive functions of the brain.


late-onset Alzheimer’s disease

The most common form of Alzheimer’s disease, usually occurring after age 65. Late-onset Alzheimer’s strikes almost half of all people over the age of 85 and may or may not be hereditary.


late stage

Designation given when dementia symptoms have progressed to the extent that a person has little capacity for self-care.



Behavior that involves inappropriately changing or layering clothing on top of one another.



Means small areas of white matter occupying unusual locations in the brain.


Lewy body dementia

A dementing illness associated with protein deposits called Lewy bodies, found in the cortex of the brain.


living trust

A legal document that allows an individual (the grantor or trustor) to create a trust and appoint someone else as trustee (usually a trusted individual or bank) to carefully invest and manage his or her assets.


living will

A legal document that expresses an individual’s decision on the use of artificial life support systems.


Lumbar puncture

A procedure used to collect cerebrospinal fluid, which can help in the diagnosis of some brain diseases, also called spinal tap.


magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

A brain scanning technique that generates cross-sectional images of a human brain by detecting small molecular changes. MRI scans reveal a contrast between normal and abnormal tissues. The image produced is similar to those generated by CT scans. There are no side effects or risks associated with MRI scans, although MRI can affect electrical devices like pacemakers and hearing aids.



See Mild Cognitive Impairment



A program sponsored by the federal government and administered by states that is intended to provide health care and health-related services to low-income individuals.



A federal health insurance program for people age 65 and older and for individuals with disabilities.



A drug approved by the FDA in October 2003 for the treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease, generic for Namenda. It is currently being tested with FTD patients too.



One of seven different cognitive functions of the brain. It is also the ability to process information that requires attention, storage, and retrieval.



The complex chemical and physical processes of living organisms that promote growth, sustain life, and enable all other bodily functions to take place.


microglia (microglial cells)

A type of immune cell found in the brain. Microglia are scavengers, engulfing dead cells and other debris. In Alzheimer’s disease, microglia are found associated with dying nerve cells and amyloid plaques.



See multi-infarct dementia.


Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

During the past several years, scientists have focused on a type of memory change called mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI is different from both AD and normal age-related memory change. People with MCI have ongoing memory problems but do not have other losses like confusion, attention problems, and difficulty with language.


Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE)

A standard mental status exam routinely used to measure a person’s basic cognitive skills, such as short-term memory, long-term memory, orientation, writing, and language. Is a thirty-point test that can provide a rough measure of a dementia patient's rate of progression based on the assumption that most patients will lose two to four points a year unless they are at the extremes of the scale.



Components found in cells that serve as primary energy sources for all cellular functions.


model system

A system used to study processes that take place in humans or other living organisms.


monoamine oxidase B (MAO-B)

An enzyme that breaks down certain neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline.


monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI)

A drug that interferes with the action of monoamine oxidase, slowing the breakdown of certain neurotransmitters. Used in the treatment of depression.


Mood and Personality

One of seven different cognitive functions of the brain.


MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

See Magnetic Resonance Imaging above.


multi-infarct dementia (MID)

A form of dementia, also known as vascular dementia, caused by a number of strokes in the brain. These strokes can affect some intellectual abilities, impair motor and walking skills, and cause an individual to experience hallucinations, delusions, or depression. The onset of MID is usually abrupt and often progresses in a stepwise fashion. Individuals with MID are likely to have risk factors for strokes, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes. MID cannot be treated; once the nerve cells die, they cannot be replaced. However, risk factors can be treated, which may help prevent further damage.


music therapy

Use of music to improve physical, psychological, cognitive, and social functioning.



The condition of being unable or unwilling to speak as a result of a physical or psychological disorder.


Brief and lightning-like movements;muscular jerks



A drug approved by the FDA in October 2003 for the treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease. The generic name is memantine. It is currently being tested/used for FTD patients.


nerve cell (neuron)

The basic working unit of the nervous system. The nerve cell is typically composed of a cell body containing the nucleus, several short branches (dendrites), and one long arm (the axon) with short branches along its length and at its end. Nerve cells send signals that control the actions of other cells in the body, such as other nerve cells and muscle cells.


nerve cell line

A group of nerve cells derived from a cell culture that can be used for experimental purposes.


nerve cell transplantation

An experimental procedure in which normal brain cells are implanted into diseased areas of the brain to replace dying or damaged cells.


nerve growth factor (NGF)

A protein that promotes nerve cell growth and may protect some types of nerve cells from damage.


neuritic plaque

See amyloid plaque.


neurodegenerative disease

A type of neurological disorder marked by the loss of nerve cells.


neurofibrillary tangle

Accumulation of twisted protein fragments inside nerve cells. Neurofibrillary tangles are one of the characteristic structural abnormalities found in the brains of Alzheimer patients. Upon autopsy, the presence of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles is used to positively diagnose Alzheimer’s.


neurological disorder

Disturbance in structure or function of the nervous system resulting from developmental abnormality, disease, injury, or toxin.


A physician who diagnoses and treats disorders of the nervous system.



See nerve cell.



Changes in the brain produced by a disease.



Passage of signals from one nerve cell to another via chemical substances or electrical signals.



Specialized chemical messenger (e.g., acetylcholine, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin) that sends a message from one nerve cell to another. Most neurotransmitters play different roles throughout the body, many of which are not yet known.


neurotrophic factor

A protein, such as nerve growth factor, that promotes nerve cell growth and survival.


Non-fluent primary progressive aphasia See Progressive nonfluent aphasia
Non-progressive Aphasia Slowly progressive aphasia without generalized dementia is a degenerative syndrome selectively affecting dominant hemisphere language areas.

The different building blocks of DNA, represented by the letter A, T, G and C



The central component of a cell; contains all genetic material.


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, OCD, is an anxiety disorder and is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Repetitive behaviors such as handwashing, counting, checking, or cleaning are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away. Performing these so-called "rituals," however, provides only temporary relief, and not performing them markedly increases anxiety.


Occipital Lobe

This part of the brain interprets what one sees.



See Obsessive Compulsive Disorder



Defines time of life when dementia begins (e.g., early-onset, late-onset for Alzheimer's and early-onset, middle-onset and late-onset for FTD).



Aimless wandering, often triggered by an internal stimulus (e.g., pain, hunger, or boredom) or some distraction in the environment (e.g., noise, smell, temperature).



Suspicion of others that is not based on fact.


Parietal Lobe

This part of the brain enables one to interpret sensory input such as pain, temperature differences, vibrations, and touch. The right parietal lobe is also important for our sense of directions.


Parkinson’s disease

A progressive, neurodegenerative disease characterized by the death of nerve cells in a specific area of the brain; the cause of nerve cell death is unknown. Parkinson patients lack the neurotransmitter dopamine and have such symptoms as tremors, speech impediments, movement difficulties, and often dementia later in the course of the disease.


peripheral nervous system (PNS)

One of the two major divisions of the nervous system. Nerves in the PNS connect the central nervous system with sensory organs, other organs, muscles, blood vessels, and glands.



Persistent repetition of an activity, word, phrase, or movement, such as tapping, wiping, question, comments and picking.

The person is not aware that he or she is repeating the same question or idea. It is more likely that poor short-term memory is the cause of the repeating. The person may be preoccupied with something, like when it's time to eat, but feel uncomfortable or even anxious because he/she can't remember when mealtime is.


personal care

See activities of daily living.


PET scan

See positron emission tomography scan.



Person with Frontotemporal Dementia



The study of drugs, including their composition, production, uses, and effects in the body.



The chemical addition of a phosphate group (phosphate and oxygen) to a protein or another compound.


Pick's Bodies  
Pick’s disease

Type of dementia in which degeneration of nerve cells causes dramatic alterations in personality and social behavior but typically does not affect memory until later in the disease.


PiD Acronym for Pick's Disease

A treatment that has no effect, such as a sugar pill. Placebos are used in clinical trials and are given to the controls


plaques and tangles

See amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangle.


positron emission tomography scan (PET scan)

An imaging scan that measures the activity or functional level of the brain by measuring its use of glucose.


Possible AD

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease that expresses a moderate suspicion that the person has Alzheimer’s disease



See Primary Progressive Aphasia

PPA syndrome See Primary Progressive Aphasia
Presenile Dementia

This term is historically used to refer to dementias coming on late or early in life. The term senile was also used.



Proteins that may be linked to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Genes that code for presenilin 1 and presenilin 2 have been found on chromosomes 14 and 1, respectively, and are linked to early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease.



The total number of individuals who have a disease at a given point in time. For example, the estimate that 4.5 million Americans currently have Alzheimer’s disease is a prevalence statistic. Incidence is the number of new cases expected to occur over the course of a year or some other limited period.


Primary Progressive Aphasia  

The individual signing the power of attorney to authorize another individual to legally make decisions for him or her.



Protein segments that may cause infection that may lead to some forms of dementia.


Probable AD

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease that expresses a high suspicion that the person has Alzheimer’s disease


Progressive Fluent Aphasia

Also known as Semantic Dementia. One form of Aphasia


Progressive Nonfluent Aphasia

Progressive nonfluent aphasia is a form of primary progressive aphasia characterized by apraxia of speech and deficits in processing complex syntax. It is similar to Broca's aphasia and is associated with left inferior frontal and insular atrophy.

Progressive nonfluent aphasia is one of three clinical syndromes associated with frontotemporal lobar degeneration. Thus, some cases are thought to be caused by either Pick's disease or dementia lacking distinctive histology. However, many cases may have neither of these types of pathology and are thought to result instead from corticobasal degeneration.



Enzymes that aid in the breakdown of proteins in the body.



The product of gene expression. Proteins are the molecules that do much of the work in the body such as creating structures, utilizing and storing energy and transmitting signals.


protein metabolism

The breakdown of proteins into amino acids, a process essential to human growth and metabolism.



Measurement of cognitive function



A general term for a state of mind in which thinking becomes irrational and/or disturbed. It refers primarily to delusions, hallucinations, and other severe thought disturbances.


Quality Care

Term used to describe care and services that allow recipients to attain and maintain their highest level of mental, physical, and psychological function, in a dignified and caring way.



Encouragement intended to relieve tension, fear, and confusion that can result from dementing illnesses.



The ability to repeat words after some delay after hearing them, measured in the Mini Mental State Exam.



A site on a nerve cell that receives a specific neurotransmitter; the message receiver.


receptor agonist

A substance that mimics a specific neurotransmitter, is able to attach to that neurotransmitter’s receptor, and thereby produces the same action that the neurotransmitter usually produces. Drugs are often designed as receptor agonists to treat a variety of diseases and disorders in which the original chemical substance is missing or depleted.


recombinant DNA technology

Artificial rearrangement of DNA; segments of DNA from one organism can be incorporated into the genetic makeup of another organism. Using these techniques, researchers can study the characteristics and actions of specific genes. Many modern genetic research methods are based on recombinant DNA technology.



The ability to repeat words immediately after hearing them, measures very short term memory, measured in the Mini Mental State Exam.



Employment of praise, repetition, and stimulation of the senses to preserve a person’s memory, capabilities, and level of self-assurance.



Life review activity aimed at surfacing and reviewing positive memories and experiences.


repetitive behaviors

Repeated questions, stories, and outbursts or specific activities done over and over again, common in people with dementia.



A short break or time away.


respite care

Services that provide people with temporary relief from tasks associated with caregiving (e.g., in-home assistance, short nursing home stays, adult day care).



Devices used to ensure safety by restricting and controlling a person’s movement. Many facilities are “restraint free” or use alternative methods to help modify behavior.


reversible dementias

These include medication interactions, depression, vitamin deficiencies or thyroid abnormalities.  It is important that these conditions be identified early and treated appropriately so that symptoms can be improved.

risk factors

Factors that have been shown to increase one’s odds of developing a disease. In Alzheimer’s disease, the only established risk factors are age, family history, and genetics.



Searching through one's own or someone else's belongings in a way that may seem haphazard and undirected to an observer.


Safe Return

The Alzheimer’s Association’s nationwide identification, support, and registration program that assists in the safe return of individuals with Alzheimer’s or related dementia who wander and become lost. This is a great program and not only should the pFTD have one, but also the primary caregiver should have one in case the caregiver is injured.



The relationships between words and their meanings.


Semantic Dementia

Semantic dementia (SD) is a progressive neurodegenerative language disorder characterized by fluent, empty speech and loss of word meaning. SD is one of three clinical syndromes associated with frontotemporal lobar degeneration. SD is a clinically-defined syndrome, but it is sometimes anatomically defined as the temporal variant of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (tvFTLD).

SD patients complain of word-finding difficulties. Neuropsychology testing reveals deficits in picture naming, category fluency (e.g. "Please list as many animals as you can in one minute") and non-verbal tasks where the patient is given three photos and asked to point to a semantically related pair (known as "the pyramid and palm tree task," in which the third item is a pine tree). As the disease progresses, behavioral and personality changes are often seen similar to those seen in frontotemporal dementia.


senile plaque

See amyloid plaque.


Senile Dementia

Was normal used for elderly patients before it was called Alzheimer's disease.



Term meaning “old,” once used to describe elderly diagnosed with dementia. Today, we know dementia is caused by various diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s) and is not a normal part of aging.



In human behavior, doing things in a logical, predictable order.


sexual disinhibition

Inability to manage sexual drive or impulses manifested by touching others inappropriately.



Following, mimicking, and interrupting behaviors that people with dementia may experience.


side effect

An undesired effect of a drug treatment that may range in severity from barely noticeable, to uncomfortable, to dangerous. Side effects are usually predictable.


Single Proton Emission Computed Tomography

See SPECT Scan.


skilled nursing care

Level of care that includes ongoing medical or nursing services.


special care unit

Designated area of a residential care facility or nursing home that cares specifically for the needs of people with dementia.


SPECT scan

A painless procedure that takes a picture of a person's brain, which can help in the diagnosis of dementia, yields somewhat different information from MRI. Normally called a Single Proton Emission Computed Tomography.


Spatial Orientation

One of seven different cognitive functions of the brain. FTD does not affect this function of the brain.


Spinal cord

One of the two components of the central nervous system, the spinal cord carries signals between the brain and the rest of the body to allow a person to sense the environment and react to it. The other component of the central nervous system is the brain.


Spinal tap

See lumbar puncture.


SSOBT Some Sort of Brain Thing

selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor



Course of disease progression defined by levels or periods of severity: early, mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe.



Means deep within the brain.



Unsettled behavior evident in the late afternoon or early evening.


support group

Facilitated gathering of caregivers, family, friends, or others affected by a disease or condition for the purpose of discussing issues related to the disease.



A mistrust common in Alzheimer patients as their memory becomes progressively worse. A common example is when patients believe their glasses or other belongings have been stolen because they forgot where they left them.



The junction where a signal is transmitted from one nerve cell to another, usually by a neurotransmitter.


synaptic vesicles

Small sacs located at the ends of nerve cell axons that contain neurotransmitters. During activity the vesicles release their contents at the synapse, and the neurotransmitter stimulates receptors on other cells.



An anticholinesterase drug, also called Cognex.



See neurofibrillary tangles.


Tau protein

The major protein that makes up neurofibrillary tangles found in degenerating nerve cells. Tau is normally involved in maintaining the internal structure of the nerve cell. In FTD, tau protein is abnormally processed.


Temporal Lobes

The temporal lobes are crucial for formation of new memories (remembering). this part of the brain is always involved in frontotemporal dementia. The left temporal lobe is also important for understanding what we hear.


Temporal variant of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (tvFTLD)

Semantic Dementia is a form of tvFTLD. It is FTD that affects the temporal section of the brain.



A group of similar cells that act together in the performance of a particular function.



A substance that can cause illness, injury, or death. Toxins are produced by living organisms.



An environmental or personal stimulus that sets off particular and sometimes challenging behavior.



The individual or bank managing the assets of the living trust.



See Temporal variant of Frontotemporal lobar degeneration.


Variant Creuzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD)

A recently identified form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease believed to be caused by eating meat from cattle affected by “mad cow disease” (bovine spongiform encephalopathy). VCJD tends to appear in much younger individuals than those affected by sporadic or inherited Creutzfeldt-Jakob.


Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is a degenerative cerebrovascular disease that leads to a progressive decline in memory and cognitive functioning. It occurs when the blood supply carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain is interrupted by a blocked or diseased vascular system.



A small pouch or pouch-like structure (sac). Vesicles in nerve cell axons contain neurotransmitters.


Visuospatial Skill

Of or relating to visual perception of spatial relationships among objects: the visuospatial skills needed to complete a jigsaw puzzle.

Visuospatial skills includes skills, such as reading a map, copying a design and matching up lines of different angular orientation.

Visuospatial ability is the ability to represent a
3-dimensional situation mentally, and create a clear
mental picture of landmarks and their relationship within
that 3-D space.

Visual-spatial-perceptual Impairment  
Vitamin E

An essential vitamin that may help delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, found naturally in nuts and oils, but only in small amounts. Vitamin supplements may be necessary in order to receive beneficial amounts. Currently no study have been done on the benefit of vitamin E for FTD patients.



Various substances found in plants and animals that are required for life-sustaining processes.



Common behavior that causes people with dementia to stray and become lost in familiar surroundings.



A legal document created by an individual that names an executor (the person who will managed the estate) and beneficiaries (persons who will receive the estate at the time of death).



A metal that is essential for proper nutrition. It is unknown if zinc plays a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.


  • Psychometry
  • ideomotor apraxia
  • dysarthria
  • myoclous
  • dystonic posture
  • alien limb syndrome
  • nigral degeneration
  • Ubiquitin
  • tauopathy
  • autosomal dominant
  • tdp-43
  • GRN
  • mapt
  • dj-1
  • dynactin




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