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Journal Article

Integration of intention and outcome for moral judgment in frontotemporal dementia: Brain structural signatures


Kanske,  Philipp
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Baez, S., Kanske, P., Matallana, D., Montanes, P., Reyes, P., Slachevsky, A., et al. (2016). Integration of intention and outcome for moral judgment in frontotemporal dementia: Brain structural signatures. Neurodegenerative Diseases, 16(3-4), 206-217. doi:10.1159/000441918.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0029-1E39-E
Background: Moral judgment has been proposed to rely on a distributed brain network. This function is impaired in behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), a condition involving damage to some regions of this network. However, no studies have investigated moral judgment in bvFTD via structural neuroimaging. Methods: We compared the performance of 21 bvFTD patients and 19 controls on a moral judgment task involving scenarios that discriminate between the contributions of intentions and outcomes. Voxel-based morphometry was used to assess (a) the atrophy pattern in bvFTD patients, (b) associations between gray matter (GM) volume and moral judgments, and (c) structural differences between bvFTD subgroups (patients with relatively preserved moral judgment and patients with severer moral judgment impairments). Results: Patients judged attempted harm as more permissible and accidental harm as less permissible than controls. The groups' performance on accidental harm was associated with GM volume in the precuneus. In controls, it was al- so associated with the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC). Also, both groups' performance on attempted harm was associated with GM volume in the temporoparietal junction. Patients exhibiting worse performance displayed smaller GM volumes in the precuneus and temporal pole. Conclusions: Results suggest that moral judgment abnormalities in bvFTD are associated with impaired integration of intentions and outcomes, which depends on an extended brain network. In bvFTD, moral judgment seems to critically depend on areas beyond the VMPFC.