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When Character Crumbles: A Kind of Dementia Reveals the Basis of Personality

A little-known dementia that destroys social sensibilities and emotions reveals the neural roots of personality
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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.

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