TitleObserving conversational laughter in frontotemporal dementia.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsPressman PS, Simpson M, Gola K, Shdo SM, Spinelli EG, Miller BL, Gorno-Tempini MLuisa, Rankin K, Levenson RW
JournalJ Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry
Date Published2017 May
KeywordsAged, Alzheimer Disease, Aphasia, Primary Progressive, Brain, Female, Frontotemporal Dementia, Humans, Laughter, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Middle Aged, Neuropsychological Tests, Primary Progressive Nonfluent Aphasia, Speech

BACKGROUND: We performed an observational study of laughter during seminaturalistic conversations between patients with dementia and familial caregivers. Patients were diagnosed with (1) behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), (2) right temporal variant frontotemporal dementia (rtFTD), (3) semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia (svPPA), (4) non-fluent variant primary progressive aphasia (nfvPPA) or (5) early onset Alzheimer's disease (eoAD). We hypothesised that those with bvFTD would laugh less in response to their own speech than other dementia groups or controls, while those with rtFTD would laugh less regardless of who was speaking.

METHODS: Patients with bvFTD (n=39), svPPA (n=19), rtFTD (n=14), nfvPPA (n=16), eoAD (n=17) and healthy controls (n=156) were recorded (video and audio) while discussing a problem in their relationship with a healthy control companion. Using the audio track only, laughs were identified by trained coders and then further classed by an automated algorithm as occurring during or shortly after the participant's own vocalisation ('self' context) or during or shortly after the partner's vocalisation ('partner' context).

RESULTS: Individuals with bvFTD, eoAD or rtFTD laughed less across both contexts of self and partner than the other groups. Those with bvFTD laughed less relative to their own speech comparedwith healthy controls. Those with nfvPPA laughed more in the partner context compared with healthy controls.

CONCLUSIONS: Laughter in response to one's own vocalisations or those of a conversational partner may be a clinically useful measure in dementia diagnosis.

Alternate JournalJ. Neurol. Neurosurg. Psychiatry
PubMed ID28235777
PubMed Central IDPMC5726511
Grant ListP50 AG023501 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
R01 AG029577 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
U01 AG052943 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
P01 AG019724 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
R01 NS050915 / NS / NINDS NIH HHS / United States
K24 DC015544 / DC / NIDCD NIH HHS / United States