Alzheimer and frontotemporal pathology in subsets of primary progressive aphasia

Marsel Mesulam*, Alissa Wicklund, Nancy Johnson, Emily Rogalski, Gabriel C. Léger, Alfred Rademaker, Sandra Weintraub, Eileen H. Bigio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

343 Scopus citations


Objective: To identify predictors of Alzheimer's disease (AD) versus frontotempotal lobar degeneration pathology in primary progressive aphasia (PPA), and determine whether the AD pathology is atypically distributed to fit the aphasie phenotype. Methods: Neuropsychological and neuropathological analyses of 23 consecutive PPA autopsies. All had qualitative determination of neurofibrillary tangle (NFT) density. Additional quantitation was done in four of the PPA/AD cases and four AD cases with the typical amnestic dementia of the Alzheimer type. Results: The sample contained mostly logopenic, agrammatic, and mixed forms of PPA. All six agrammatics had frontotempotal lobat degeneration (five of six with tauopathy). Seven of the 11 logopenics had AD. In logopenics, lower memory scores increased the probability of AD, but there were exceptions. The PPA/AD group showed predominance of entorhinal NFT typical of the amnestic dementia of the Alzheimer type. In the small subgroup examined quantitatively, neocortical NFTs were more numerous in the left hemisphere of PPA/AD. However, the asymmetry was low and inconsistent. Neuritic plaques did not display consistent asymmetry. Apolipoprotein E4, a major risk factor for typical AD, did not predict AD pathology in PPA. Interpretation: Subtyping PPA helps to predict AD versus frontotemporal lobar degeneration pathology at the group level. However, our results and the literature also indicate that no clinical predictor is completely reliable in individual patients. The inconsistent concordance of NFT distribution with the asymmetric atrophy and the nonamnestic phenotype also raises the possibility that the AD markers encountered at autopsy in PPA may not always reflect the nature of the initiating neurodegenerative process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)709-719
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of neurology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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