Loss of the Ability to Experience Pleasure Associated with Early Symptoms of Dementia

A daughter take care her mother has alzheimer's disease, memory loss due to dementia and disease as a elderly medical health care concept, mother's day.Early-onset dementia is often mistaken for depression, putting patients at risk for not getting the proper treatment they need. A team of Australian researchers has discovered that a profound loss of ability to experience pleasure is related to the degeneration of “hedonic hotspots” in the brain. Because people report a lack of happiness in life, physicians can mistake it for depression.

These “hedonic hotspots” in the brain are where pleasure mechanisms are concentrated. The research team from the University of Sydney revealed marked degeneration or atrophy in the frontal and striatal areas of the brain. This has been related to diminished reward-seeking in patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD).

The Study of FTD


This new study is the first of its kind to analyze the loss of pleasure in patients with FTD. The clinical definition for a loss of ability to experience pleasure is called anhedonia. This condition is also common in people with depression, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder and can be highly disabling for the individual.

The study included patients with FTD, which generally affects people aged 40 – 65. They recorded a dramatic decline from pre-disease onset compared to patients with Alzheimer’s disease who were not found to have significant anhedonia. These findings point to the importance of considering anhedonia as a primary symptom of FTD. In these patients, neural drivers were found in areas that are distinct from apathy or depression.

The paper’s senior author Professor Muireann Irish said, “Our findings also reflect the workings of a complex network of regions in the brain, signaling potential treatments.”

“Future studies will be essential to address the impact of anhedonia on everyday activities, and to inform the development of targeted interventions to improve quality of life in patients and their families.”

Much of the human experience is motivated by the experience of pleasure, but most people take this for granted. For those who suffer from anhedonia, the world is a much different experience.

As the condition is linked to other neurodegenerative disorders, it helps to bring light on how it can help diagnose early-onset dementia and create potential treatments. By ensuring high quality of life in patients with early-onset dementia and administering proper treatments, the pace at which the condition progresses has been previously found to be reduced.

Author Bio

Sarah began her interest in nutritional healing at an early age. After going through health problems and becoming frustrated with the conventional ways doctors wanted to treat her illness (which were not working), she took it upon herself to find alternative treatments. This led her to revolutionize her own diet to help her get healthier and tackle her health problems. She began treating her illness by living a more balanced lifestyle through healthy food choices, exercise and other alternative medicine such as meditation. This total positive lifestyle change led her to earn a diploma in Nutritional Therapy from Health Sciences Academy in London, England. Today, Sarah enjoys helping others by teaching healthy lifestyle changes through her personal consultations and with her regular contributions to the Doctors Health Press. Also, passionate about following her dreams in life, Sarah moved to France and lived in Paris for over 5 years where she earned a certification in beadwork and embroidery from Lesage (an atelier owned by Chanel). She then went on to be a familiar face sitting front row and reporting from Paris Fashion Week. Sarah continues to practice some of the cultural ways of life she learned while in Europe. They enjoy their food, and take the time to relax and enjoy many of life’s little moments. These are life lessons she is glad to have brought back home with her.