AIMS: A clinical frontal lobe syndrome (FLS) is generally attributed to functional or structural disturbances within frontal-subcortical circuits. We studied the distribution of pathological brain changes in FLS. Additionally, the prevalence of FLS among various disorders was studied.
METHODS: We systematically screened clinical files of donors to the Netherlands Brain Bank (n = 2,814) for FLS. A total of 262 FLS cases were identified, and the distribution of postmortem pathological changes within the frontal-subcortical circuits was extracted from their neuropathological reports.
RESULTS: In 244 out of 262 patients (93%), pathological changes within the frontal-subcortical circuits were found: 90 subjects (34%) with frontal cortical pathology and 18 (7%) with pathology restricted to subcortical grey matter nuclei, whereas 136 subjects (52%) showed both cortical and subcortical pathology. In 18 subjects (7%), no pathology was found in the examined areas. The prevalence of FLS was highest in frontal-temporal lobar degeneration, followed by progressive supranuclear palsy and vascular dementia [χ(2)(6, n = 1,561) = 222.64, p < 0.01].
CONCLUSION: In this large brain bank study, the distribution of pathological changes in subjects with FLS was shown to be frontal-subcortical for the first time. A minority of FLS cases had pathology in the subcortical regions only or no frontal pathology at all.