The authors of this article investigated criminal behavior among patients diagnosed with Frontotemporal Dementia and Alzheimer Disease to understand how these disorders can result differentially in antisocial and criminal behaviour. A retrospective medical record review of 2397 patients covered patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, behavioral variant Frontotemporal Dementia (bvFTD), semantic variant primary progressive aphasia and Huntington Disease.
It was found that 14% of patients with bvFTD were found to be significantly more likely to present criminal behaviour compared with 2% of patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, and that 6.4% of patients with bvFTD were significantly more likely to exhibit violence compared with 2% of patients with Alzheimer’s Disease. Typical criminal behaviour in bvFTD patients included theft, traffic violations, sexual advances, trespassing and public urination. People with Alzheimer’s Disease, by contrast, tended to have more commonly committed traffic violations, presumably caused by cognitive impairment.
The authors conclude that criminal behaviour is more common in patients with bvFTD (and in semantic variant primary progressive aphasia) than in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease. The question arises whether such individuals should be treated differently by the law, and whether the appearance of uncharacteristic new-onset criminal behaviour in later adulthood – presumably appearing due to impaired judgment, executive function, emotional processing and self-awareness – should raise the alert for a potential diagnosis of frontal and anterior temporal brain disease / dementing disorders.
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Liljegren, M. Naasan, G. [and] Temlett, J. [et al] (2015). Criminal behavior in Frontotemporal Dementia and Alzheimer Disease. JAMA Neurology. January 5th 2015. [Epub ahead of print].
An interview on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme covered this story. Dr Laura Phipps, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said patients suffering from FTD are more likely to present severe changes in behaviour, such as lack of inhibitions and perceived criminality. People in the community generally (including worried relatives), and within the police and legal system in particular, might benefit by becoming more aware of these forms of dementia and these particular types of behavioural symptoms.
Listen to the BBC Radio 4 interview:
Rare forms of dementia: police must be aware of symptoms. London: BBC Radio 4; Today Programme, January 6th 2015.
An impartial appraisal of this research:
Out-of-character criminal actions linked to dementia. London: NHS Choices Behind the Headlines, January 7th 2015.