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Improving tests for commonly misdiagnosed disease

 

Narrator:       This is Science Today. Frontotemporal dementia, or FTD, is a common but frequently misdiagnosed disease that affects personality, behavior and language. But now, neuropsychologists at the University of California, San Francisco, are developing tests that can help doctors diagnose the disease earlier, simply by testing patients' social and emotional sensitivity.

Rankin:          Right now a lot of people come to us and they've been told the wrong disease. They've been told they have something else, often Alzheimer's, maybe some vascular disease. I'd like to be able to make it easier for average physicians to test for these diseases and come up with an accurate diagnosis.

Narrator:       Researcher Katherine Rankin is devising a battery of diagnostic tests based on her finding that Alzheimer's patients tend to be sensitive to social emotions like guilt and pride, whereas FTD patients have difficulty processing these social emotions.

Rankin:          We want tests that we can give different kinds of dementia patients. We want to be able to say this task Alzheimer's patients do well, FTD patients do badly because then we can actually target treatment.

Narrator:       For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.