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Anhedonia in Semantic Dementia-Exploring Right Hemispheric Contributions to the Loss of Pleasure.

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Shaw, Siobhán R 
El-Omar, Hashim 
Piguet, Olivier 
Ahmed, Rebekah M 


Semantic dementia (SD) is a younger-onset neurodegenerative disease characterised by progressive deterioration of the semantic knowledge base in the context of predominantly left-lateralised anterior temporal lobe (ATL) atrophy. Mounting evidence indicates the emergence of florid socioemotional changes in SD as atrophy encroaches into right temporal regions. How lateralisation of temporal lobe pathology impacts the hedonic experience in SD remains largely unknown yet has important implications for understanding socioemotional and functional impairments in this syndrome. Here, we explored how lateralisation of temporal lobe atrophy impacts anhedonia severity on the Snaith-Hamilton Pleasure Scale in 28 SD patients presenting with variable right- (SD-R) and left-predominant (SD-L) profiles of temporal lobe atrophy compared to that of 30 participants with Alzheimer's disease and 30 healthy older Control participants. Relative to Controls, SD-R but not SD-L or Alzheimer's patients showed clinically significant anhedonia, representing a clear departure from premorbid levels. Overall, anhedonia was more strongly associated with functional impairment on the Frontotemporal Dementia Functional Rating Scale and motivational changes on the Cambridge Behavioural Inventory in SD than in Alzheimer's disease patients. Voxel-based morphometry analyses revealed that anhedonia severity correlated with reduced grey matter intensity in a restricted set of regions centred on right orbitofrontal and temporopolar cortices, bilateral posterior temporal cortices, as well as the anterior cingulate gyrus and parahippocampal gyrus, bilaterally. Finally, regression and mediation analysis indicated a unique role for right temporal lobe structures in modulating anhedonia in SD. Our findings suggest that degeneration of predominantly right-hemisphere structures deleteriously impacts the capacity to experience pleasure in SD. These findings offer important insights into hemispheric lateralisation of motivational disturbances in dementia and suggest that anhedonia may emerge at different timescales in the SD disease trajectory depending on the integrity of the right hemisphere.



Alzheimer’s disease, depression, frontotemporal dementia, motivation, neuroimaging, striatum

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Brain Sciences

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This study was supported in part by funding to ForeFront, a large collaborative research group dedicated to the study of neurodegenerative diseases, from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Program grant (#1132524) and Dementia Research Team Grant (#1095127), as well as the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (CE11000102) and an NHMRC Project grant (#1121791). The authors acknowledge the technical assistance provided by the Sydney Informatics Hub, a Core Research Facility of the University of Sydney. M.I. is supported by an ARC Future Fellowship (FT160100096). A.E.W. is supported by an NHMRC Fellowship (#1110773). O.P. is supported by an NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship (GNT1103258). These funding sources were not involved in the study design, in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data, in the writing of the report, or in the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.