Cognitive and affective empathy disruption in non-fluent primary progressive aphasia syndromes

Jessica L. Hazelton, Muireann Irish, John R. Hodges, Olivier Piguet, Fiona Kumfor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


Empathy involves being able to understand and respond to others' emotional experiences. Whilst deficits in empathy have been observed in frontotemporal dementia, the extent to which empathy is disrupted in dementia syndromes with predominant language impairment remains unclear. The current study investigated cognitive and affective empathy in the two non-fluent primary progressive aphasia syndromes: progressive non-fluent aphasia (PNFA) and logopenic progressive aphasia (LPA). Informants of 23 PNFA and 16 LPA patients completed the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI), regarding patients' capacity for empathy pre- and post-disease onset. Twenty-four healthy control participants completed the self-rated IRI for comparison of post-disease empathy capabilities. Within-group analyses revealed reduced cognitive empathy and increased personal distress in both patient groups. In addition, lowered affective empathy was reported in PNFA, with a similar trend observed in LPA. Interestingly, reduced affective empathy was associated with greater carer burden in LPA. Between-group analyses revealed reduced cognitive empathy in both patient groups relative to controls. The current study is the first to document empathy changes in PNFA and LPA, offering insight into the social cognitive deficits experienced in these syndromes. Future neuroimaging studies are needed to identify the underlying neural correlates and mechanisms driving empathy deficits in PNFA and LPA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-129
Number of pages13
JournalBrain Impairment
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • carer burden
  • empathic concern
  • empathy
  • interpersonal reactivity index
  • logopenic progressive aphasia
  • personal distress
  • perspective taking
  • progressive non-fluent aphasia

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