Theory of mind impairment in patients with behavioural variant fronto-temporal dementia (bv-FTD) increases caregiver burden

Andrea Brioschi Guevara, Kristine M. Knutson, Eric M. Wassermann, Sarah Pulaski, Jordan Grafman, Frank Krueger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations


Background: Theory of mind (ToM), the capacity to infer the intention, beliefs and emotional states of others, is frequently impaired in behavioural variant fronto-temporal dementia patients (bv-FTDp); however, its impact on caregiver burden is unexplored. Setting: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health. Subjects: bv-FTDp (n = 28), a subgroup of their caregivers (n = 20) and healthy controls (n = 32). Methods: we applied a faux-pas (FP) task as a ToM measure in bv-FTDp and healthy controls and the Zarit Burden Interview as a measure of burden in patients' caregivers. Patients underwent structural MRI; we used voxel-based morphometry to examine relationships between regional atrophy and ToM impairment and caregiver burden. Results: FP task performance was impaired in bv-FTDp and negatively associated with caregiver burden. Atrophy was found in areas involved in ToM. Caregiver burden increased with greater atrophy in left lateral premotor cortex, a region associated in animal models with the presence of mirror neurons, possibly involved in empathy. Conclusion: ToM impairment in bv-FTDp is associated with increased caregiver burden.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberafv059
Pages (from-to)891-895
Number of pages5
JournalAge and ageing
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015



  • Caregiver burden
  • Faux-pas task
  • Frontal cortex
  • Older people
  • Theory of mind
  • Voxel-based morphometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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