Neurodegenerative diseases are associated with profound changes in social and emotional function. The emergence of increasingly sophisticated methods for measuring brain volume has facilitated correlation of local changes in tissue content with cognitive and behavioural changes in neurodegenerative disease. The current study examined neuroanatomical correlates of behavioural abnormalities, as measured by the Neuropsychiatric Inventory, in 148 patients with dementia using voxel-based morphometry. Of 12 behaviours examined, 4 correlated with tissue loss: apathy, disinhibition, eating disorders and aberrant motor behaviour. Increasing severity across these four behaviours was associated with tissue loss in the ventral portion of the right anterior cingulate cortex (vACC) and adjacent ventromedial superior frontal gyrus (vmSFG), the right ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPC) more posteriorly, the right lateral middle frontal gyrus, the right caudate head, the right orbitofrontal cortex and the right anterior insula. In addition, apathy was independently associated with tissue loss in the right vmSFG, disinhibition with tissue loss in the right subgenual cingulate gyrus in the VMPC, and aberrant motor behaviour with tissue loss in the right dorsal ACC and left premotor cortex. These data strongly support the involvement of the right hemisphere in mediating social and emotional behaviour and highlight the importance of distinct regions on the medial wall of the right frontal lobe in regulating different behaviours. Furthermore, the findings underscore the utility of studying patients with dementia for understanding the neuroanatomical basis of social and emotional functions.
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