Summary: A new study investigates the link between frontotemporal dementia and abnormal eating behaviors.
Frontotemporal dementia is associated with a wide variety of abnormal eating behaviors such as hyperphagia, fixations on one kind of food, and even the ingestion of inanimate objects. A new study by SISSA researchers pays particular attention to the brain mechanisms involved in these usual eating habits. The findings may be used to better understand eating disorders in healthy people.
The study was published in the journal Neurocase.
The “Banana lady” described by Andrew Kertesz (“The Banana Lady and Other Stories of Curious Behavior and Speech,” 2006) ate only bananas and drank liter and liter of milk every day. She continually asked her husband to make sure that there was always enough milk and bananas in the house. After her death, brain analysis confirmed her doctors’ diagnosis: the woman was suffering from frontotemporal dementia. Alterations in eating behavior are so frequent in this disease that they are factored into the diagnosis.
A systematic review by SISSA researchers provides an overview of the research done in this field, creating a comprehensive framework and suggest new lines of research. “We put together what appeared to be a fragmented image, focusing on types of disorders and hypotheses about the brain mechanisms behind them,” says Aiello. “This could be helpful for understanding abnormal eating behavior in healthy people as well.”
There are many kinds of disorders described in the study, ranging from a simple increase in appetite, to uncontrolled overeating, lack of satiety, changes in food preferences, and ingesting objects.
There have been other rather extravagant behaviors related to food observed as well, such as stealing food from other peoples’ plates. “These behaviors are problematic, of course, socially, but also with regard to patients’ health as they tend to gain weight,” says Aiello, “even if individual consequences are different. Some people lose weight because they eat a narrow range of foods in an obsessive way.”
The study reports that there is a link with certain areas of the brain, including the orbitofrontal cortex and hypothalamus, an area of the brain that regulates the interaction between the amount of food consumed and energetic homeostasis. “The origin of food anomalies in frontotemporal dementia is likely due to many factors,” says Aiello. “It may involve an alteration of the autonomic nervous system, characterized by an altered assessment of the body’s signals, such as hunger, satiety, and appetite. Damage to the hypothalamus can cause a loss of inhibitory signals, causing behaviors such as overeating.”There are probably sensory and cognitive factors that can complicate the picture, continues Aiello. “In patients who eat objects, for example, there is perhaps a semantic problem of recognizing the object of and its function.”
“All of these mechanisms,” concludes Aiello, “are interesting for understanding the disease and creating optimal treatments to counteract symptoms. At the same time, they reveal abnormalities that may be present, albeit with varied intensities, in healthy individuals with irregular eating habits.”
NeuroscienceNews.com would like to thank the press team at SISSA for submitting this research article directly to us for inclusion.
Image Source: This NeuroscienceNews.com image is adapted from the SISSA press release.
Original Research: Abstract for “You stole my food! Eating alterations in frontotemporal dementia” by Marilena Aiello, Vincenzo Silani and Raffaella I Rumiati in Neurocase. Published online June 21 2016 doi:10.1080/13554794.2016.1197952
[cbtabs][cbtab title=”MLA”]SISSA. “”Hey! You Stole My Food!” Abnormal Eating Behaviors in Frontotemporal Dementia.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 22 June 2016.
<https://neurosciencenews.com/ftd-eating-psychology-4543/>.[/cbtab][cbtab title=”APA”]SISSA. (2016, June 22). “Hey! You Stole My Food!” Abnormal Eating Behaviors in Frontotemporal Dementia. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved June 22, 2016 from https://neurosciencenews.com/ftd-eating-psychology-4543/[/cbtab][cbtab title=”Chicago”]SISSA. “”Hey! You Stole My Food!” Abnormal Eating Behaviors in Frontotemporal Dementia.” https://neurosciencenews.com/ftd-eating-psychology-4543/ (accessed June 22, 2016).[/cbtab][/cbtabs]
You stole my food! Eating alterations in frontotemporal dementia
Patients with different types of dementia may exhibit pathological eating habits, including food fads, hyperphagia, or even ingestion of inanimate objects. Several findings reveal that such eating alterations are more common in patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) than other types of dementia. Moreover, eating alterations may differ between the two variants of the disease, namely the behavioral variant and semantic dementia (SD). In this review, we summarized evidences regarding four areas: eating and body weight alterations in FTD, the most common assessment methods, anatomical correlates of eating disorders, and finally, proposed underlying mechanisms. An increasing understanding of the factors that contribute to eating abnormalities may allow first, a better comprehension of the clinical features of the disease and second, shed light on the mechanism underlying eating behaviors in the normal population.
“You stole my food! Eating alterations in frontotemporal dementia” by Marilena Aiello, Vincenzo Silani and Raffaella I Rumiati in Neurocase. Published online June 21 2016 doi:10.1080/13554794.2016.1197952