The CSAND lab is closely involved with research on frontotemporal dementias (FTD). All forms of frontotemporal dementia impact communication in some way, whether by directly impacting language, as is the case in the two primary progressive aphasias (PPA) that are FTD subtypes, or by impacting aspects of nonverbal and social communication in the behavioral variant of FTD (bvFTD). This year, Dr. Pressman attended the 2022 meeting of the International Society of Frontotemporal Dementia (ISFTD). Here are some of the highlights!
One highlight was the introduction of a model that might reduce the need for high numbers of participants in clinical trials. This has been a major problem in FTD research. FTD is rare, making gathering sufficient information on large numbers especially challenging. This statistical model instead creates predicted trajectories of individual participants, allowing for more sophisticated approaches ultimately requiring fewer overall numbers to detect meaningful differences between those on a drug and those who aren’t.
Further discussion was held about the right temporal variant of FTD, sometimes called the emotional semantic variant as proposed by colleagues at UCSF’s Memory and Aging Center. Dr. Pressman has been happy to participate in discussions about how to best define this disorder, which may allow for more precise targeting in future clinical trials and observational research trials.
The underlying molecular and cellular changes in FTD also received detailed attention. Discussion centered around how genes cause changes in protein makeup within specific regions of the brain. These changes are involved in a variety of symptoms seen in FTD patients. As part of ALLFTD, our lab presented more evidence about a novel mutation called TARDBP I383V which seems a unique exception to the rule that most genetic variants do not selectively impact temporal lobes. Models of inflammation also continued to receive a lot of attention.
Researchers from across the world additionally discussed how language can be impacted in FTD. Dr. Boon Lead Tee, for example, discussed differences and similarities in PPA presentations in speakers of tonal languages such as Mandarin Chinese. Dr. Maya Henry and Dr. Emily Rogalski continued to highlight the benefits of speech therapy in PPA, and the promise of therapies delivered virtually.
The conference ended with notes of recognition of needed research in rural areas, further need for international collaboration, and the need for further study of patients “in the wild”– that is naturalistic settings, as opposed to tightly controlled lab environments. We’re proud to say that the CSAND lab is already leading in all of those directions!