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Bruce Willis Diagnosed With Frontotemporal Dementia

Bruce Willis, the renowned Hollywood actor, recently announced his diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia (FTD). FTD is a rare form of younger-onset dementia that primarily affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.

Today, we wil will delve into FTD, its symptoms, ongoing research, and treatment options. We will also explore the impact of Willis’s diagnosis and the efforts being made to support individuals affected by FTD.

Charles Sykes/ Invision/ AP, File | FTD tends to affect people at a younger age, with the onset of most cases occurring from ages 45 to 64

Understanding Frontotemporal Dementia

FTD is estimated to affect between 10,000 and 15,000 individuals in Australia, with most diagnoses occurring before age 65. While the exact cause of FTD is not fully understood, researchers believe it is linked to the accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain. One of the common symptoms of FTD is aphasia, a communication disorder that impairs an individual’s ability to express and understand language.

Aphasia in Frontotemporal Dementia

According to Dr. David Foxe, a clinical neuropsychologist and FTD researcher, aphasia manifests differently depending on the specific brain area affected by FTD. Damage to the left frontal lobe may cause a non-fluent presentation of aphasia, characterized by difficulties in language production, including grammar, syntax, and pronunciation.

On the other hand, damage to the left temporal lobe may result in a semantic presentation, affecting the comprehension and use of words and concepts.

D.L. Perez/ AP | There are different types of frontotemporal dementia

The Confusion Surrounding Terminology

To further complicate matters, aphasia can also occur in other types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s. This overlap of language impairments in various dementia conditions is called primary progressive aphasia (PPA).

This overlap can lead to confusion, as medical professionals sometimes use terms like FTD and PPA interchangeably. Both terms, such as “the semantic variant of FTD” and “the semantic variant of PPA,” are correct, adding to the complexity of diagnoses and terminology.

Research and Treatment

Ongoing research efforts are dedicated to unraveling the underlying mechanisms of FTD and developing new treatments and interventions. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for FTD.

However, clinical drug trials are underway, with additional trials set to begin in Australia within the next two years. The primary focus of current treatment options is symptom management and enhancing the quality of life for individuals living with FTD.

SKY/ AP | FTD causes changes to personality, behavior, language, and movement

Support and Collaboration

In light of the recent news surrounding Mr. Willis’s diagnosis, efforts are being made to support individuals affected by FTD. FRONTIER and the University’s Communication Disorders Treatment and Research Clinic have partnered. This collaboration aims to offer speech pathology clinical services led by students specifically designed to address language difficulties in dementia patients.


Bruce Willis’s public revelation of his frontotemporal dementia diagnosis has shed light on this lesser-known form of dementia. FTD poses significant challenges due to its impact on language and communication abilities. Ongoing research and clinical trials offer hope for improved understanding and potential treatments in the future.

Collaborative efforts and support services, like the one established between FRONTIER and the University’s Communication Disorders Treatment and Research Clinic, demonstrate a commitment to assisting individuals affected by FTD. With continued advancements, we strive to enhance the lives of those living with FTD and work towards a brighter future.

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