- Instead of robbing memory and thought, the most common variety of dementia in people younger than 60 steals away social graces, emotions and empathy.
- Family members and even doctors may erroneously view early signs of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) as a midlife or marital crisis.
- Studying people with FTD can help illuminate the neural underpinnings of self-awareness, of certain complex social emotions and of basic personality traits.
- Research reveals that personality does not simply emerge from a soup of brain chemicals but can be traced to specific brain structures and circuits.
Harriet Holliday sparkled with personality. She reminded Kevin Horowitz, her third husband, of the mother in Mamma Mia!—free-spirited, flamboyant and nurturing. She dressed with a sexy, sophisticated glamour and regaled friends with witty tales at soirees. As hospitality manager at a winery in Napa Valley in California, she planned events for hundreds of guests. But around six years ago, at age 49, Holliday “started turning mean,” Horowitz recalls. “She didn’t know when to hold her tongue.”
She became touchy and sarcastic, alienated friends and was soon fired from her job. Other odd or inappropriate behaviors surfaced. When the couple dined out, Holliday would wear a stylish dress with house slippers. She flirted outrageously with young male strangers and tickled them.
This article was originally published with the title When Character Crumbles.