Neural Networks Involved in Abnormal Eating in Dementia

Typically, eating behaviors are measured by questionnaires completed by patient caregivers, but are limited by problems with overestimation or underestimation.

In this study, the researchers “aimed to overcome these difficulties by performing prospective, well-controlled experiments to assess caloric intake and sucrose preference in patients with FTD, with the additional aim of assessing MRI correlates of performance on these tests,” wrote Jennifer Whitwell, PhD, an editor of JAMA, in a corresponding editorial.

The researchers noted that developing an understanding of the networks behind these eating behaviors offers opportunities for developing targeted treatments to modify these eating behaviors, and to modify metabolic abnormalities and disease progression. Understanding these neural networks also provides insights into structures that control eating behavior in healthy individuals.

“The concept that behavioral abnormalities in FTD result from a network of brain regions, rather than 1or 2 specific structures, is certainly an attractive, although more complicated, neurobiological explanation for these behavioral manifestations,” wrote Dr Whitwell. “There is currently a great deal of interest in network theory within the field. The results from this study by Ahmed and colleagues provide the most rigorous assessment of this issue to date and will now need to be validated.”


  1. Ahmed RM, Irish M, Henning E, et al. Assessment of Eating Behavior Disturbance and Associated Neural Networks in Frontotemporal Dementia. JAMA Neurol. 2016; doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2015.4478.
  2. Whitwell JL. Uncovering Neuroanatomical Networks Responsible for Abnormal Eating Behavior in Frontotemporal Dementia. JAMA Neurol. 2016; doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2015.4496.