Diagnosing FTD can be challenging but new developments at UT Health Neurocognitive Disorders Center (NDC) at the Mischer Neuroscience Institute (MNI), researchers led by Dr. Paul Schulz are developing new agents to use in PET scans to be able to visualize the depositions of the protein that differ from Alzheimer’s disease in living humans for a correct diagnosis.

PET scans show the activity of tissues by measuring the energy usage (metabolic activity) of your brain. PET combines a camera and a radioactive tracer.The tracer is what allows doctors to see how your body tissues absorb and use different chemicals in real time. By detecting metabolic changes in the brain, your doctor can see which areas are healthy versus dysfunctional. The doctor may ask you to perform certain tasks like read or speak to activate specific areas of your brain. Once the scan is completed, you can flush out the tracer by drinking plenty of water.

In addition to neuroimaging (PET, fMRI, SPECT, CT) the following may be part of a diagnostic protocol;

Neurological exam and history: It is important to have as much input from the caregiver as possible. A journal is helpful to record their loved ones behavioral changes, speech difficulties, etc. Note any family mental health issues, and incidence of concussion.

Neuropsychological testing: evaluation of patient’s conduct, language, visuospatial abilities, memory, abstraction, planning and mental control, motor skills and intelligence. Test of FTD patients may show visual and memory abilities intact. However, abstract thinking, word generation, motivation and ability to follow rules may be disrupted.

EEG: An electroencephalogram shows patterns of electrical activity produced by the brain as recorded by electrodes placed with a sticky paste to the scalp. The electrodes do NOT generate electricity but record electrical activity produced by the brain. In people with FTD, the EEG is usually normal or shows mind frontal slowing. Thus, a normal EEG does not mean that the behavioral manifestations are primarily the result of a psychiatric illness.(source; http;//memory.ucsf.edu.ftd)