Narrator: This is Science Today. A lack of embarrassment later in life could be an early sign of frontotemporal dementia, or FTD — a neurodegenerative disease that affects personality. A team of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, compared embarrassment reactions of FTD patients with those of healthy patients by having both groups listen to themselves singing karaoke.
Sturm: In the lab we measured their physiological reactivity, and we also coded facial expressions and then all of the subjects had structural MRI scans of their brain. So from those scans we could then do the correlations between specific parts of the brain and our laboratory measures of embarrassment.
Narrator: Researcher Virginia Sturm explains that FTD patients not only exhibited the least embarrassment of all subjects, but also showed deterioration in a part of the brain known as the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex.
Sturm: Really early in their disease, that's the region that's hard-hit. So we were able to say when you lose the cells in that region you really lose the reaction.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.