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Frontotemporal dementia with parkinsonism-17
(often shortened to FTDP-17)
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Reviewed March 2011
What is FTDP-17?
Frontotemporal dementia with parkinsonism-17 (FTDP-17) is a progressive brain disorder that affects behavior, language, and movement. The symptoms of this disorder usually become noticeable in a person's forties or fifties. Most affected people survive 5 to 10 years after the appearance of symptoms, although a few have survived for two decades or more.
Changes in personality and behavior are often early signs of FTDP-17. These changes include a loss of inhibition, inappropriate emotional responses, restlessness, neglect of personal hygiene, and a general loss of interest in activities and events. The disease also leads to deterioration of cognitive functions (dementia), including problems with judgment, planning, and concentration. Some people with FTDP-17 develop psychiatric symptoms, including obsessive-compulsive behaviors, delusions, and hallucinations. It may become difficult for affected individuals to interact with others in a socially appropriate manner. They increasingly require help with personal care and other activities of daily living.
Many people with FTDP-17 develop problems with speech and language. They may have trouble finding words, confuse one word with another (semantic paraphasias), and repeat words spoken by others (echolalia). Difficulties with speech and language worsen over time, and most affected individuals eventually lose the ability to communicate.
FTDP-17 is also characterized by progressive problems with movement. Many affected individuals develop features of parkinsonism, including tremors, rigidity, and unusually slow movement (bradykinesia). As the disease progresses, most affected individuals become unable to walk. Some people with FTDP-17 also have restricted up-and-down eye movement (vertical gaze palsy) and rapid abnormal movements of both eyes (saccades).
How common is FTDP-17?
The worldwide prevalence of FTDP-17 is unknown. In the Netherlands, where the disease prevalence has been studied, it is estimated to affect 1 in 1 million people. However, the disorder is likely under-diagnosed, so it may actually be more common than this.
FTDP-17 probably accounts for a small percentage of all cases of frontotemporal dementia.
What genes are related to FTDP-17?
FTDP-17 is caused by mutations in the MAPT gene. This gene is located on chromosome 17, which is how the disease got its name.
The MAPT gene provides instructions for making a protein called tau. This protein is found throughout the nervous system, including in nerve cells (neurons) in the brain. It is involved in assembling and stabilizing microtubules, which are rigid, hollow fibers that make up the cell's structural framework (the cytoskeleton). Microtubules help cells maintain their shape, assist in the process of cell division, and are essential for the transport of materials within cells.
Mutations in the MAPT gene disrupt the normal structure and function of tau. The defective protein assembles into abnormal clumps within neurons and other brain cells. However, it is unclear what effect these clumps have on cell function and survival. FTDP-17 is characterized by the gradual death of cells in areas of the brain called the frontal and temporal lobes. The frontal lobes are involved in reasoning, planning, judgment, and problem-solving, while the temporal lobes help process hearing, speech, memory, and emotion. A loss of cells in these brain regions leads to personality changes, speech difficulties, and the other features of FTDP-17.
FTDP-17 is one of several related diseases known as tauopathies, which are characterized by an abnormal buildup of tau in the brain.
Read more about the MAPT gene.
How do people inherit FTDP-17?
This condition is inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern, which means one copy of the altered gene in each cell is sufficient to cause the disorder.
In most cases, an affected person has one parent with the condition.
Where can I find information about diagnosis or management of FTDP-17?
These resources address the diagnosis or management of FTDP-17 and may include treatment providers.
General information about the diagnosis and management of genetic conditions is available in the Handbook. Read more about genetic testing, particularly the difference between clinical tests and research tests.
To locate a healthcare provider, see How can I find a genetics professional in my area? in the Handbook.
Where can I find additional information about FTDP-17?
You may find the following resources about FTDP-17 helpful. These materials are written for the general public.
You may also be interested in these resources, which are designed for healthcare professionals and researchers.
What other names do people use for FTDP-17?
What if I still have specific questions about FTDP-17?
Where can I find general information about genetic conditions?
The Handbook provides basic information about genetics in clear language.
These links provide additional genetics resources that may be useful.
What glossary definitions help with understanding FTDP-17?
autosomal ; autosomal dominant ; bradykinesia ; cell ; cell division ; chromosome ; cytoskeleton ; dementia ; echolalia ; familial ; gene ; hallucinations ; nervous system ; palsy ; parkinsonism ; prevalence ; protein
You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference Glossary.
See also Understanding Medical Terminology.
References (9 links)
The resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Users seeking information about a personal genetic disease, syndrome, or condition should consult with a qualified healthcare professional. See How can I find a genetics professional in my area? in the Handbook.