Dementia type correlates with criminal behaviour


Study finds one type of neurodegenerative condition is significantly associated with law-breaking and inappropriate acts. Andrew Masterson reports.


Some types of dementia seem to be linked to increased criminal and antisocial behaviours.

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People with frontotemporal dementia have a significantly elevated risk of committing criminal or socially inappropriate behaviour, Swedish research shows.

Furthermore, the appearance of criminal behaviour in a previously law-abiding person, the researchers suggest, might serve as a diagnostic warning signal that dementia is developing.

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is challenging to identify because it manifests in a range of symptoms that are similar to those of Alzheimer’s Diseases (AD), and even unrelated conditions, such as stroke or depression.

As with many neurodegenerative disorders, conclusive diagnosis can only be made during autopsy.

This was the approach used by researchers led by Madeleine Liljegren from Sweden’s Lund University.

She and colleagues examined the pathologies of 220 people who had been diagnosed, post mortem, with either FTD or AD, and compared the results to their criminal and behavioural histories. The cohort comprised 119 cases of FTD, and 101 cases of AD.

Of the group, 58% were female, the median age of disease onset was 63, average age at death was 72, and the median length of time spent with either disease was nine years (although this ranged from one year to 28).

Instances of criminal behaviour were found in 65 of the 220 – the majority of them, 50, among the FTD sufferers. Also, some 89% of the criminally active FTD subset had committed more than one criminal act. The repeat rate in the AD criminals was significantly lower, at 53%.

The difference in instances of socially inappropriate behaviour was also significant. It was recorded on the records of 89 members of the FTD group, and 57 members of the AD group.

“These results suggest that criminal and socially inappropriate behaviours may be more prevalent and criminal behaviours may be more recurrent in patients with FTD than in those with AD,” the authors conclude in a paper published in the JAMA Network Open.

“These findings may help with the clinical diagnostic process.”

  1. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/diagnosing-frontotemporal-disorders
  2. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2729467
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