Emotion processing deficits distinguish pure amyotrophic lateral sclerosis from frontotemporal dementia

Sharon A. Savage*, Patricia Lillo, Fiona Kumfor, Matthew C. Kiernan, Olivier Piguet, John R. Hodges

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a multisystem disease that overlaps with frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Although FTD patients exhibit prominent deficits in emotion perception and social cognition, these domains have received relatively little attention in ALS. Moreover, direct comparisons between ALS and FTD on emotion processing tasks remain lacking. Twenty-nine patients with ALS (16 with coexisting FTD (FTD-ALS) and 13 without dementia), 25 behavioural variant FTD patients and 30 healthy controls completed neuropsychological and emotion tasks (Ekman Caricatures and the TASIT). Both ALS and FTD patient groups showed significant deficits on the emotion tasks compared to controls. After dividing ALS patients into those with and without FTD, only the patients with coexisting FTD (FTD-ALS) were impaired. FTD-ALS and FTD patient groups displayed similar levels of impairment, even after controlling for measures of general cognition, and demonstrated similar profiles across different types of emotions. We conclude that patients with FTD-ALS and FTD show similar, significant impairments in emotional processing. By contrast, ALS patients without dementia exhibit preserved emotion processing. Performance on emotion processing tasks may provide a useful clinical tool in identifying those with early FTD-ALS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-46
Number of pages8
JournalAmyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Frontotemporal Degeneration
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive impairment
  • Emotion
  • Frontotemporal dementia

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