Dissociation in rating negative facial emotions between behavioral variant Frontotemporal dementia and major depressive disorder

Isabelle Chiu, Olivier Piguet, Janine Diehl-Schmid, Lina Riedl, Johannes Beck, Thomas Leyhe, Edith Holsboer-Trachsler, Manfred Berres, Andreas U. Monsch, Marc Sollberger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)


Objective Features of behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) such as executive dysfunction, apathy, and impaired empathic abilities are also observed in major depressive disorder (MDD). This may contribute to the reason why early stage bvFTD is often misdiagnosed as MDD. New assessment tools are thus needed to improve early diagnosis of bvFTD. Although emotion processing is affected in bvFTD and MDD, growing evidence indicates that the pattern of emotion processing deficits varies between the two disorders. As such, emotion processing paradigms have substantial potentials to distinguish bvFTD from MDD. Design and Participants The current study compared 25 patients with bvFTD, 21 patients with MDD, 21 patients with Alzheimer disease (AD) dementia, and 31 healthy participants on a novel facial emotion intensity rating task. Stimuli comprised morphed faces from the Ekman and Friesen stimulus set containing faces of each sex with two different degrees of emotion intensity for each of the six basic emotions. Measurements and Results Analyses of covariance uncovered a significant dissociation between bvFTD and MDD patients in rating the intensity of negative emotions overall (i.e., bvFTD patients underrated negative emotions overall, whereas MDD patients overrated negative emotions overall compared with healthy participants). In contrast, AD dementia patients rated negative emotions similarly to healthy participants, suggesting no impact of cognitive deficits on rating facial emotions. Conclusions By strongly differentiating bvFTD and MDDpatients through negative facial emotions, this sensitive and short rating task might help improve the early diagnosis of bvFTD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1017-1027
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer disease
  • behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia
  • Emotion recognition
  • face morphing
  • major depressive disorder

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